A whopping 110,000 U.S. restaurants shut their doors for good last year, owing to the pandemic and the subsequent economic downturn. For Black-owned small businesses in America, the news was even worse: 440,000 of them closed down between February and mid-April alone. Discover understood the gravity of the issue and responded with Eat It Forward, encouraging community members to nominate their favorite Black-owned restaurants for the chance to win $25,000 awards. In all, Discover has given $5 million to Black-owned restaurants across the country.
Today on The Carlos Watson Show, we’re celebrating a Brighter Financial Friday, sponsored by Discover and highlighting the work of Eat It Forward winner Steve Ewing, owner of Steve’s Hot Dogs in St. Louis. This is Steve’s story.
“We started Steve’s Hot Dogs as a side business. When I toured with my band, we always tried to find food stands for a late dinner after gigs. So I felt like I could get in the game without really knowing hot dogs. I had been playing music professionally for 30 years and got to a point where I wanted to do something different and have another thing to do during the day. So I decided to get my feet wet with a hot dog stand.
“We set ourselves apart by presenting the hot dog as more like a gourmet meal. That’s why ours come with all the toppings, the fresh-baked bread from the local bakery, and locally sourced meats and cheeses. We wanted to elevate the hot dog — bring it to that next level. Our Bacon Bacon Jamaican, for example, has two slices of bacon, chopped bacon, grilled bell peppers, honey chipotle sauce and pepper jack cheese.
“We’re right in a neighborhood in the middle of the south side of St. Louis with schools and other small businesses around us. We’re involved with fundraising for the public schools in the area, the food pantries and feeding kids, especially in the summer when they’re out of school and during COVID when schools were shut down. COVID was pretty hard for us at the beginning, but we quickly shifted gears, redid our website and restructured deliveries. People started buying food just to keep the restaurants going in St. Louis. It was amazing. Everybody realized the need to step up and support their favorite neighborhood joints. They also tipped like crazy.
“With the $25,000 we won from Discover, we’ve started to pay off some of our past debts and invest in ways to help employees through slow times in the future. We have a little extra pad in the back of our accounts so we can make more food and hire more people. It’s money, but it’s also an affirmation. It feels good. It takes a lot of weight off, emotionally, coming into this new year.”