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Memphis entrepreneur gives look into newly renovated downtown restaurant

At one point, B.J. Chester-Tamayo, the owner of Alencia's, faced an uncertain future.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. —

Since 2004, August has been known as National Black Business Month.  

Alcenia’s, a Memphis staple, not only survived the peak of the pandemic but has relocated and plans to expand.  

The Main Street restaurant closed during the peak of the pandemic and reopened in April.

"I was closed 390 days,” Alcenia's owner, B.J. Chester-Tamayo, said. “To be closed 390 days, to be a small African-American business, and a female and come back, that's a miracle."   

Due to certain pandemic restrictions and construction in front of her restaurant, Tamayo was on the cusp of losing her business of more than 20 years.  

"I have a lot of out-of-towners, 90% of my business is probably out-of-towners,” Tamayo said. "So, when they would go and try to find me, they couldn't find me. Because of the way that Google had them coming, I was blocked off every way." 

According to a report by the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black business ownership declined by more than 40%.   

However, Tamayo persevered and is now expanding her newly purchased location on Main Street.

"You got to carry the crown before you wear the crown,” she said. "You got to go through, you got to do the work. Everybody wants 'instant microwave' success. There is no 'instant microwave' success. I'm still trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up."   

Tamayo’s restaurant is lavished in bright colors, art, and gifts from customers both locally and internationally. 

The self-proclaimed "southern girl" said the key to her success has been hard work. 

"We need to as a race, start supporting each other more," she said. "I really feel that and stop blaming everybody else and if we stick together more, nobody can stop us. I always say it's very easy to talk Black but it's very hard to be Black." 

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