STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — Surrounded by her family, Lennora Meadows, owner of Soul Fo’ Real BBQ in Strongsville, spent Monday morning packaging more than 100 meals for Laura’s Home Women’s Crisis Center, which is part of The City Mission.
Meadows’ restaurant is one of the three Black-owned establishments the Cleveland Browns teamed up with as part of their Cleveland Huddle initiative, celebrating Black History Month by supporting businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic while also providing meals to those in need across the area.
“We wanted to bring exposure to small, Black businesses that are out here. They’ve adjusted with the coronavirus pandemic. But then as we were looking into businesses to support, they did an amazing job of doing outreach even within the pandemic,” said Bridgette Givand, community relations coordinator with the Cleveland Browns. “Whether it’s providing meals to frontline workers, to nurses, to kids—free meals that kids can come up and get in the summer or after school—this was really a way of saying thank you to these businesses for the work that they already do in the community.”
The Browns loaded up their “Browns Give Back” truck with the meals packaged by Soul Fo’ Real BBQ, going on to distribute them to individuals at Laura’s Home.
“We’re hoping that this is just an awesome opportunity that impacts the community in different ways and we hope that fans can support,” Givand said.
Filled with pulled pork sandwiches, chicken wings, mac and cheese, baked beans, Oreo crumb pudding, and pound cake, Meadows did not hold back on the packaged meals and made the food for Monday’s distribution with extra love.
Meadows said that Soul Fo’ Real BBQ, being a family business, is adamant about giving back to the community she said so regularly supports them.
“I was born and raised in Cleveland, so knowing a lot of people that have been displaced in some shape or form, especially women and their children, I think [Laura’s Home] is an awesome place for people to get back on their feet,” Meadows said. “We were able to feed 120 today so that’s a blessing.”
In business for the past two years, Soul Fo’ Real BBQ didn’t have to change a lot when the pandemic hit as it already was operating as a takeout establishment, but like any business, the restaurant took a hit to sales as people stayed home during lockdown.
“It was a major impact for us, especially a business that just got started out, we’ve only been open for the past two years. so a lot of the aid that was available for small businesses or whatnot, we weren’t eligible for,” Meadows said. “So my family—my mother, my sisters, my nieces—we all just kind of pulled together to keep the doors open.”
Meadows said the local community, from Strongsville to Berea to North Olmsted, made sure to keep giving Soul Fo’ Real BBQ business to help keep them operating.
While they have weathered the storm and kept their doors open, Soul Fo’ Real BBQ has seen fluctuations in business over the course of the pandemic.
That's why Meadows said the Browns’ initiative isn’t just giving them a quick financial boost, but helping generate long-term impacts as well.
“It’s funny, because of the press release that was done concerning the Cleveland Huddle, we’ve had a lot of people call in, a lot of orders that went out,” Meadows said. “So just being exposed by the Browns organization has brought a lot of different people in from far out—from Akron, from Medina—and again, that has been a blessing for us to keep us going.”
Meadows, winking at some of the Browns staff helping with the distribution, said she hopes some more Browns players stop into the restaurant and get a good meal but also would love more people from surrounding communities to stop in soon.
At Soul Fo’ Real BBQ, where all the food is made by Meadows and her family, customers are treated like family—something Meadows said is important to her and her way of business.
“We are a community business, we try to cater to everyone to have a place to come so they can feel like family,” Meadows said. “We’re a family-owned business that wants to treat whoever walks in the door like family and let them feel like family when they come in.”
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays, Soul Fo’ Real BBQ is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
To learn more about Soul Fo’ Real BBQ, click here.