Sylvia's Still Cooking In Harlem

Sylvia's African Americains CBS

In Harlem, Sylvia's restaurant is more than a lunch stop, it's a landmark.

"We call this Southern-style soul food," says owner Sylvia Woods. "And I am a soul sister all the way."

Woods started out picking cotton in South Carolina, reports CBS News Correspondent Anthony Mason. Today, her cornbread and collard greens lure tourists from all over the world.

Customers exit with smiles and doggy bags. "I took home some spare ribs and macaroni and cheese," says one.

Suddenly Sylvia's in the middle of a Harlem renaissance. And at 73, the boss is still cookin'.

"I want to create," she says. "Create jobs. Create business."

When she bought the little lunch counter in 1962 it had six booths and 15 seats. Today, Sylvia's has 160 employees.

"It was a luncheonette. Now Sylvia's is a national brand," says her son, Kenneth Woods.

Kenneth has helped grow the brand, putting his mom's face in supermarkets all over the country.

"Becoming not just a mom and pop, but a major company, you know there's challenges," he says.

The challenges are big ones. The family has launched a line of hair care products. They hope to build a hotel and convention center in Harlem. There's a second Sylvia's now in Atlanta.

But they need more people to make it all happen. Sylvia's manager Clarence Cooper says he can't get enough cooks, cashiers, and waiters.

"It takes a special type of talent," Cooper says. "Not everyone can be a good waiter."

And not everyone can meet Sylvia's standards. The boss wants it done her way.

"I hate to say it," Sylvia exclaims. "Talk about men: You don't like for women to tell you: 'don't do it that way.'"

She is still her company's greatest asset and hardest worker.

From an old family recipe, the soul sister has cooked up a multi-million dollar business.


©2000, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

Comments

Follow Us

On Twitter