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Local Black Businesses put community before the bottom line during pandemic

Black History Month

SPARTANBURG, S.C.- Whether in movies, television, or on social media platforms, the business world is seen as a dog-eat-dog world. But for two Black owned local businesses in Wellford and Greenville, their focus is on customers’ well being.

Greenville’s Woodside Bistro and the Basic Training and Event Center in Wellford operate under the golden rule, ‘treat others like you want to be treated.’ While all of the business owners agreed, it hasn’t been easy staying open during a pandemic, supporting their communities is still key.

Kevin Frazier has co-owned Woodside Bistro with his good friend, Austyn McGroarty, since May 2019. They wanted to make sure that when they opened the restaurant, they didn’t kick out the community in the process. Whether a person is a have or a ‘have-not’ all were still welcome.

“You can’t forget or lose sight of what you’ve been through or what other people are going through,” Frazier said.

Thus the bistro has encouraged customers to help feed the community in need through the Pay It Forward program.

“There was never a second we were like let’s not continue to do this program and it’s funded by our customers,” McGroarty added.

Customers have the option to pay for someone else’s meal in addition to their own. Allowing those who don’t have money, still the option to have a nice meal.

“Anybody that says they did it by themselves, they’re lying. Somebody’s always been there to help. So, we wanted to make sure that we were doing the same thing,” Frazier said.

In addition to the number of meals paid forward counting into the thousands, the co-chefs and owners, they’ve hosted an annual coat drive for the community as well. While both men agree community is important, they’ve add that another one of their other main goals is just to feed hungry people good food.

“That’s one of the biggest things for us, is when the plate hits the table, and we see the customer’s eyes light up. Like they weren’t expecting that,” Frazier explained.

As a minority business owner, in a culturally diverse Greenville neighborhood, Fraizer knew helping the community in addition to his business grow, wasn’t a compromise. Since McGroarty is one of his long time friends, they were on one accord about this idea, they both agreed this was how they wanted to run their business.

“When you actually take a step back and be like yeah, definitely me and Austyn have come from, you know, from nothing to start this. Just to see the direction and the progress that we made, it’s definitely a blessing. People helped us so we want to make sure that we’re helping other people too,” Frazier noted.

In Wellford,  Shaunna and Courtney Thomas own Basic Training & Event Center. Basic stands for Brothers and Sisters in Collaboration.

The Thomases echoed the support of creating more sustainable minority businesses in the Upstate that give back to the community.

“If you got a vision for it then you can do it. That’s just that,” Courtney Thomas explained.

“Being a minority business or a business of color, it’s a great thing. We just have to step out of fear and our comfort zone. A lot of times the community is scare of rejection or don’t know where to start, or the education is not there, or people aren’t just wanting to help without a steep price. So, I feel like jumping out and overcoming your fears is the first step in starting a business period,” Shaunna Thomas said.

The center has hosted a wide range of events. There are two dance teams, The Ligerettes and The Mini Ligerettes, that train at the center. Additionally, there are workout Wednesday events, corporate trainings, professional seminars, and free community events on topics, such as, Mental Health Awareness.

“Although we’re in a pandemic, we still have to live, we still have to thrive,” Shaunna Thomas said.

She added that tutoring sessions to help students that could be struggling during the pandemic will be offered in the future.

The Thomases opened the doors to Basic in August of 2020. Courtney explained that his wife is the true leader of this center and he’s just proud of anything and everything she does. Nonetheless, they still work as a team, and admitted they didn’t think the businesses was going to open as early as it did, during a pandemic.

“There are so many businesses that started in a pandemic. But if we could just be a bridge to help them to the next level. Or offer a space where they could come and safely social distance. I feel like it’s beneficial,” Shaunna Thomas said.

She added that Basic Training & Event Center is open to hosting any event,  because the center was created as a safe haven to help the community thrive.

For more information about Woodside Bistro click here.

For more information about Basic Training & Event Center click here.

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