There’s a new soul food restaurant in Charlottesville, thanks to the persistence and passion of a determined local woman. JBD opened this month in Belmont, in the former location of The Local Smokehouse. An offshoot of Jeanetha Brown Douglas’s catering business, JBD Mobile Catering & Events, the restaurant gives a brick-and-mortar outlet to her client’s favorite dishes.
One is fried chicken. Douglas’ chicken first developed a following nearly a decade ago when, every Saturday, she would set up a stand in front of Sunshine Market on Cherry Avenue, and serve fried chicken. Word quickly spread, and her chicken soon had a loyal cadre of regulars who would return every week.
What’s her secret? “Love,” she says, without hesitation.
There’s also no shortage of love in her fried chicken livers and gizzards.
Douglas’s stand outside Sunshine Market served fried fish, too. And, at JBD, both whiting and catfish are available either as a platter with sides or as a simple sandwich.
Sides include Douglas’s mac n cheese, cole slaw, mashed potatoes, and braised vegetable options like kale, collard greens, and cabbage. And, on Saturdays, there are even chitterlings.
While chicken, fish, and mac n cheese are the most popular dishes, Douglas’ personal favorite is her cabbage. “I love my cabbage,” she says. “Cabbage for me is heartwarming.”
Douglas learned to cook from her grandmother, and that’s not the only lesson she took. “My grandmother used to cook for the whole neighborhood,” says Douglas. “She didn’t care who you were, you were welcome to sit at her dinner table.” Douglas wants to bring that warm hospitality to JBD.
Monday and Tuesday 11-8
Thursday through Saturday 11-10
Not long ago, the prospect of Douglas opening a restaurant would have seemed remote. In 2009, after her marriage collapsed, Douglas, a mother of seven, found herself homeless, broke, and with two young children to care for.
Inspired by her love of her children, she fought back. “My baby girl and baby son are my heart,” says Douglas. “We went through some tough times, but I put in my mind that, one way or another, I was going to start my own business.” After 20 years working in food businesses, at places like Waffle House and University of Virginia, Douglas was determined to run her own.
So, she worked three jobs at a time and slowly lifted herself up, saving money with the help of Piedmont Housing Alliance and its VIDA program, which offers financial management counseling and a matched savings program to incentivize good habits. Douglas also enrolled in the program offered by CIC (Community Investment Collaborative), which equips budding Charlottesville entrepreneurs with tools to launch a successful business, including education, mentoring, micro-loans, and even co-working space. (Past CIC successes include businesses like Cakes by Rachel, Chef Tony Catering, Edacious, Eze Amos Photography, Mochiko, and No Bull Burger.)
In 2015, Douglas had saved enough to realize her dream. She launched JBD Mobile Catering & Events. Her catering business became such a success that, less than two years later, she now has a restaurant, too.
Douglas continues to cater, and, thanks to the Piedmont Housing Alliance, serves dinner twice a week to children at the downtown affordable housing community Friendship Court.
Never Give Up
“Never give up,” Douglas says “Just keep trying.”