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.
“I mentor young people in my hometown of Richmond, California, with a program called Advance Peace, based on the belief that stringing together some good decisions means we don’t have to solve our disputes with a firearm. A part of the program is that we take young people on trips. We would go to New York several times a year, and there are hot dog carts all over the city. There was one in particular that the director of the program wanted to go to every time he went to New York.
“The first time we went to New York, it was freezing cold, and there was a line around the corner. We went back in the summer. It was humid, and there was still a line around the corner. So I got in line, walked up, got my hot dog, ate it. It was good. Then I asked the hot dog guy a question.
‘I’d like to know how much money you make selling hot dogs here in New York.’ ‘Are you going to believe me if I tell you?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘After everything, somewhere north of a million dollars.’ ‘Selling hot dogs?’
“Standing there with him, getting a dose of his personality, I recognized immediately why people were drawn to that specific location. I stepped out of line and told my wife, who has a culinary background, ‘Let’s get a hot dog cart.’
“We put a money-back guarantee on it: If you don’t like your food, you don’t have to pay for it. But you know there’s never a reason for someone not to like their service. People come by for … it used to be for a high-five or a hug. Now it’s an air bump. People come by just to say hello. They come by just to have a conversation or talk about something that’s weighing on their mind. It’s so much more than hot dogs, and we recognize that. When people walk into That’s My Dog, which has locations in Houston and the Bay Area as well as stands, they feel human.
“So, wherever a That’s My Dog sits, it’s responsible for taking care of the community around it. Whether it was Hurricane Harvey or whether it was when COVID hit, there were families who were absolutely going through it, and our hearts were moved toward them. Life is not a highlight reel. There are ups and downs. It’s been difficult to build a brand from the ground up, not really having a mentor, but our resolve is that we just don’t quit. We don’t give up.”