Southern Cooking Finds Permanent Home in OTR

Posted on April 29, 2022 by aatkinson

Soul Secrets Celebrates Grand Opening of Vine Street Restaurant This Weekend

CINCINNATI (April 29, 2022) – What started as a corporate catering business based out of Findlay Kitchen has evolved into a stand-alone restaurant ready to bring grandma’s southern cooking to the heart of Over-the-Rhine. Owned and operated by Candice Holloway, Soul Secrets will celebrate its grand opening at 1434 Vine Street, a street-level commercial space in Center City Development Corp. (3CDC)’s Behlen project, this Saturday.

While the fast-casual restaurant will feature only a limited menu for its grand opening before expanding this summer, it will typically offer a full menu of soul food dishes, including original family recipe fried chicken, fried fish, mac & cheese, collard greens, buttermilk cornbread and more. In addition to traditional southern dishes, Soul Secrets offers several Vegan soul food options, including vegan Salisbury steak and chicken pot pie.

“The shrimp & grits is one of our bestsellers,” Holloway said. “It began as a brunch option and just took off! It’s my favorite item on the menu.”

Before starting Soul Secrets as a corporate catering service and way to connect with her teenage daughter, Holloway ran a consulting firm for 12 years dealing primarily with home healthcare. She ran the businesses simultaneously for a period of time, as well.

“I earned my master’s degree in Business Administration, with a minor in Business Management and started my own consulting firm,” Holloway said. “When COVID hit, I walked away from the firm. The home healthcare industry really took a hit during the pandemic, and it just made sense to devote all of my time to Soul Secrets.”

Holloway’s catering service had been selected to participate in Findlay Launch, an accelerator program for food-related businesses, with an intentional focus on supporting BIPOC, women and immigrant-owned businesses. However, the program was ultimately cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Someone from 3CDC reached out around the same time asking how they could help us take our business to the next level and I immediately told them we needed a permanent space,” Holloway said. “We had started doing pop-ups and we were receiving so many phone calls asking if we were open because people didn’t realize we were a catering-only business. I knew it was time to open a restaurant where we could share all our family’s recipes with anyone who wanted to try them.”

Soul Secrets, a Black- and woman-owned business, will open next door to Nostalgia Wine and Jazz Lounge, another Black- and woman-owned business, as 3CDC continues to focus adding more diversity to its street-level commercial spaces. 3CDC currently has 80 street-level commercial tenants in OTR, 20 (or 25%) of which are Black-owned businesses and 40 (or 50%) of which are woman-owned businesses.

“We are thrilled for Soul Secrets to have a permanent restaurant space where Candice can grow her business beyond catering,” Lindzie Gunnels, Senior Commercial Leasing Officer for 3CDC, said. “We’re committed to working with a diverse group of highly talented entrepreneurs, so Candice has been the perfect partner, and it’s been a joy helping her bring her vision to life. We believe Soul Secrets will thrive in this new space, as the newest addition to the OTR dining scene.”

The restaurant will be totally family oriented, offering a warm and comforting environment that speaks to the traditions passed down by Holloway’s grandmother. Born on her grandmother’s birthday, Holloway is fully embracing the opportunity to share her recipes as a way to continue her legacy.

“I’m just doing what my grandmother would’ve done if she could have,” Holloway said.

Holloway received grant funding from several organizations that made her brick-and-mortar restaurant possible, including Main Street Ventures, the OTR Chamber of Commerce, the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber Foundation, thanks to a generous grant from the Johnson Foundation. The space was designed by Luminaut and Linked Solutions served as the General Contractor on the buildout.

Soul Secrets will be open from 11AM to 10PM Tuesday thru Thursday, on Friday and Saturday from 11AM to 11PM and from 1PM to 9PM on Sundays. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.

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