If you know anything about Charlotte, NC’s Black-owned restaurant scene, then it is likely that LuLu’s Maryland Style Chicken and Seafood has come up in the conversation. Jay and Miketa Davis opened the popular spot, known for it’s Maryland-style crab cakes, in November 2019.
After celebrating their 1-year anniversary, holding a wedding in the middle of COVID, and suffering an unimaginable loss— the couple is gearing up to open the second of many LuLu’s to come.
“This year has been a rollercoaster year, and we have had to make a lot of changes,” Miketa Davis, co-owner of LuLu’s told Travel Noire. “We were able to pivot early on in the pandemic, by shifting to curbside service. This was what was most comfortable for us.”
The Davis’ have always had the mindset that there would be multiple LuLu’s across Charlotte, and beyond. But, the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement gave them the push they needed to make it happen sooner, rather than later.
“The momentum made us say “why not,”” Jay Davis said. “I told my wife that the plan was to open at least 6-7 locations within the next three years. We wanted to bring more locations to serve our customers who drive across the city just to support us.”
To make the vision a reality, the couple would take time during their date nights to seek out the perfect building. They ended up finding a place in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood neighborhood, which has been hit hard by gentrification over the years.
“This one was just a perfect move,” Jay said.
The key to the couple’s sustainability, has been the love and support from the community. In return, they also make it a priority to give back to other Black-owned businesses in the area, too.
“We need to make it our standard in supporting each other,” Miketa said. “We need to make it a priority to seek out people and businesses that look like us, in order to continue to build across the board.”
The couple’s only ask is that when they mess up, for customers to offer constructive criticism so they can right the wrong. But, also extend the same grace to Black-owned restaurants that you would to those that aren’t.
“We are proud of our first brick-and-mortar, and we have been able to survive through a pandemic,” Jay explained. “The support makes all the difference.”
The second location is set to open in early 2021. The original LuLu’s has also expanded to opening 7 days a week, to give customers even more time to get their fill of crab cakes, crab fries, and all of the other LuLu’s favorites.
We asked Jay and Miketa to offer a piece of advice to other Black-owned businesses based on what they have learned in their own operations, here’s what they said:
“Stay fluid, and be able to move and change with the times,” Jay said. “But, never compromise the business you’re trying to maintain. Also, beware of naysayers and stay strong in the things you know are important.”
“If you are looking for longevity, slow and steady wins the race,” Miketa shared. “If you move too fast, you may miss some key opportunities.”