Since its founding in 1962, Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem has become a landmark institution in New York City. Started by Sylvia Woods, who had to borrow money from her mother after she mortgaged her farm, the restaurant has attracted celebrity clientele from around the world, including Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and Magic Johnson.
Sylvia passed away in 2012, but her entrepreneurial spirit and creative vision lives on in her son, Van, who co-owns and manages the family enterprise.
Too Dog Radio sat down with Van to speak about the difficulties of starting a restaurant, and what young entrepreneurs can do to avoid the common pitfalls that hurt far too many up-and-coming restaurant owners. Van also discusses the importance of workplace cohesiveness and trust that is so vital in building - and even more importantly - expanding a new business. Van also talks about growing Sylvia’s restaurant into a country-wide food distribution empire through joint ventures and promotions, and the value of building strong, lasting relationships with customers.
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