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 understands the gravity of the issue and responded with Eat It Forward, which encouraged 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 winners Jason Becton and his husband, Patrick Evans, co-owners of MarieBette Café & Bakery in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is Jason’s story.
“I went through a lot of different phases in my life, trying to figure out what I wanted to do. The semester that I spent abroad in Paris was like a culinary awakening for me, all the fresh markets and the importance of ingredients. Going to a four-year liberal arts college and leaving that and becoming a cook just was not something that I felt was the right thing to do, especially with a lot of student loan debt. So advertising, oddly, was what I ended up doing, but the agency I worked for had an office in Paris.
“After nine years at the advertising firm, I just decided that it was not for me and that I really needed to be my own boss. So I kind of fell back on my love of cooking. I left it all and I became a prep cook and worked my way up. And eventually, when the time seemed right, my husband and I sold our house in New Jersey, moved down here to Virginia and started the business. It was scary.
“The brioche feuilletée was something that put us on the map in Charlottesville, and then outside the Charlottesville area. It’s a pretty classic French pastry, but it’s not done very often. It became super popular. February last year was one of the strongest months we’ve had, and then COVID hit. We decided we would only do takeout. Now it’s a very popular curbside pickup. But I would say for the first three weeks, it was really, really touch-and-go.
“I think people in this community really appreciate what we’ve contributed. This business has become a place where people take their kids after school to get a hot chocolate and to get a chocolate chip cookie. They see that we are involved in the local Pride celebration. They see that we’re involved in the homeless shelter. After what happened on Aug. 12 a couple of years ago, this community has this odd kind of stigma attached to it. But it’s not what we’re about. People in this community really are trying to figure out ways to be better.”