Englewood Village Farms Showcase: Doughboy's Chicago

Doughboy Fryison and Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the awards presentation for the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund.

Doughboy Fryison and Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the awards presentation for the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund.

Our next profile in our Village Farm Showcase series is Dough “Doughboy” Fryison. He is the founder of Doughboy’s Chicago, a new restaurant coming to Englewood in 2019. In addition, he a recipient of the mayor’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, a community development grant for local entrepreneurs.

He spoke with us in August about the trials and triumphs of being a local, Black food business in Chicago. The interview is below in its entirety:

E; When do you start cooking? Where did you kind of learn how to cook and how did that happen for you? Was that at home? Was it turned on by certain restaurants in your neighborhood, how did that work for you?

D: Me loving to cook, the passion of cooking, I wouldn’t say I had that. I just have a knack. I some delicious recipes and I know how to get down. I’ve been cooking since college. My mother, grandmother, aunties, I was always in the kitchen with them. And seeing what their doing, and picking up little tidbits along the way, you know. And when you go to away to college, and you come from under the nest, and you have to get out there and fend for yourself. And when I moved out there around Perdue, I learned, survival of the fittest. I know and have a taste for good food. Just like I got a good taste for music, I got a good taste for food. I had a restuartun prior to this one, Pop-up Drop-Off, and that was an amazing experience. I like when I see other individuals have a good time eating my food.

E: For sure. Talk about that restaurant. What was amazing about it? And from that, what are you trying to bring to Englewood?

D: Popup Dropoff, I was there from 2015-2017. It was a wonderful opportunity to be an owner in one of our neighborhoods and be able to show individuals that you should expect quality, you should expect quantity for your dollars, and be respected. Being a Black owner was something that I took to heart. In my restaurant which I’ll have at my new locations, are pictures from our culture. From music, entertainment, to politicians, our face is always looked at. On Do the Right Thing at Sal’s Pizzeria, ain’t no brothers on the wall. You know, we gotta make sure of that. We got brothers and everybody else on the wall now. We’re represented in that location and was. And I look forward to doing that at my new location. It will be at 352 E. 71st street. We’re in the process of getting that up to code. You know in Chicago, opening up a brick and mortar if it is not already turnkey takes a little time with the city and that's fine. We’re doing the steps, we’re doing it correctly, and also waiting on different funding to see if it's available to us. So it's a wait game, but I'm patient. I’ve learned over the time of doing this, you have to be patient. And I know my people want me to get back out here as quick as possible, and we’re doing some things so people can get an opportunity to get the food. But, Doughboy Chicago is coming. It's a new brand but it will have the same as well as better quality and consistency that you love from Popup Dropoff.

E: So talk to me about that. One, as a Black business owner, Black food-business owner, that’s hard. So talk to me a little bit about that on the south side and that legacy. Were there other Black food business folk mentoring you? What is that like because you are still going through it? And what tips do you have for young people who are trying to get into this food truck game or want to start their own brick and mortar, or storefront, or catering services. How gully, or how hard do you have to work as a Black food entrepreneur?

D: That...I say this to individuals that either want to get into it or question me about it, it's not for the weak, it's not for the faint of heart. Because every day it's a different hustle. It's a hustle. The opportunity, and the reason why I enjoy it so much, is because I know once I put my all into my food, individuals who have the time to taste it, it's different. It's not like something you’ve tasted before. I’m a big guy so I’m a foodie, I like to get out and try different things. . One thing thats big about Chicago is the actual food scene. And the reputation that we have throughout the nation when you come and have a Chi-town original dish, whether it be pizza, harolds, Leon’s, you know, those old school names that rang bells, that’s important. The quality of your food should remain the same. It's a hard business, and it sometimes even harder to bring people with you that have a portion of the dream that you have. First of all, it's important that you get your vision for what you want your business to be. Whether it be brick and mortar, catering, whatever it be. Have your vision, and have your game tight on what it is that you want to produce as the end user. Going and having Popup Dropoff, one thing that is very important now that I can say, starting off, unless you have someone who’s willing to open the open the books to you, it wasn’t a lot of that when I came in. I don’t know if that was because I didn’t do the networking or if it was just you know, how sometimes we are, we hold on very tight to that information for self-preservation. I’m not like that. I tell, I give it up. I want the next person to succeed. I want the next person to be able to build their own legacy. What’s important about anything is that I understand the importance of being your own boss. That entrepreneurship life is not easy, it's not easy. It takes a strain on all facets of your life, personal, professional, financial. But it's a decision that you make. And the other is, working in corporate America for 14 years, being able to have to fall within someone else’s structure or dream, and then at a moment’s notice being told that you are no longer needed after you gave your all to that company, I now see the importance of having your own, starting your own, and being your own. Sometimes stepping out on that walk of faith is scary, but I tell you, the rewards are greater. I will tell you this, the financial component is gonna be, is gonna be hard. Sometimes if you been in corporate America or other walks of life with financial freedoms it's a little bit easier, but it's gonna tighten up, expect that. Know someone well, get you an accountant, get you a lawyer, reach out and go to your family. Your marketing has to be on key. Get you a media consultant. Get you somebody that's gonna put your face on your product. And if you take pictures of your product, make sure it's something that you would want to eat, that’s the first thing. Make people fall in love with your food visually. If they understand that part, they’ll come following to follow up to actually purchase it. And if it's good, you have a repeat customer.

E: That’s what’s up. Two more questions. The first is about the GGE Food Business Boot Camp. So talk to me about the value of that. We talked about the financials, bringing in a food-guru or expert in the business. And then the last one is around working with Black food producers, growers and farmers. You talked about being open to that and I wanted to talk about those two things closing out.

Fryison at the Grow Greater Englewood Food Business Boot Camp in May.

Fryison at the Grow Greater Englewood Food Business Boot Camp in May.

D: First of all, the boot camp was monumental. Those couple days that we had to talk with an individual with expertise, that has done it, saw it and perfected it, with her tract record was second to none. Taking part of that was, man, I took so much from that, I was thankful for it. Looking to go back with the follow-up we have this Fall. But being able to also see others in the agriculture and farming, that was something that I was also able to really get a good picture of how my business could also be intertwined with those as well. One of the other things that I’ve done in the meantime is look at different organic fertilizers that are out here. One company, Garvey Organics, I’m trying to bring that to Chicago and kind of see how I can partner up with some of our farmers and growers on the agriculture side, and then also look at some possibilities on the cannabis side when Chicago and Illinois comes about. I was blessed to be in contact with various individuals from Denver. And looking how Denver uses agriculture, and also marijuana growing, it's a business that Chicago hasn’t seen. But be it that I see that we’re kin of going in that direction, I want to see how to bring that to the forefront as well. I’m all about Black economics, that’s the biggest thing that I push. When I see a brother or sister really trying to do they thing and make their stamp and their legacy, I want to support whatever that is. Because I understand that if we don’t help each other, and if we don’t support each other, things won't get done, and if we don’t do it now, our future is going to suffer. We right now are at the forefront of Chicago and all over the country were we now have to do the grassroots efforts in order for things to start progressing and manifesting. I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life. 44 years of seeing this place develop and not seeing it develop to where I would have expected it to be, I feel like I have a part in this. Until it's time for me to go home, I’m going to do whatever it takes to build a legacy for my family, for my people, for my culture, for Chicago. And again, Black Chicago. We’ve been here but we still ain't gettin’ the recognition for us being here, but that’s going to change. We gon’ develop these different areas. We gon’ give the people the tools and the knowledge and the understanding, love, and compassion, and move all this stuff forward. I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to be able to be linked up with various individuals that’s kind of on the same mindset, and it's gonna happen man, it's gonna happen. I’m down for the ride, man. The revolution will be televised, and it will be online if you look for it, yes indeed.

E: Nice, that was perfect. Anything you want to promote that you have coming up?

D: Again, Doughboy’s Chicago will be going through the little crossing of the t’s and dotting the i’s but we are doing catering on a full scale. To place orders reach out to doughboychgo@gmail.com

Also looking at various markets and taking the brand to various markets such as Denver, Houston, and Florida.

I’m blessed right now to be in the midst of these things. My model is always shoot the three, but I’ve also had to learn that a layup is good too.

Elisha Hall