Culture

Sylvia Woods, Founder of Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem, Has Died

Thu., Jul. 19, 2012 10:16 PM EST
by Terry Shropshire

The “Queen of Soul Food,” Sylvia Woods, has died at age 86 not far from the landmark Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem that she built into a local and national treasure that was adored by millions, including celebrities, politicians, big businesspeople and even presidents like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

A long line of dignitaries flooded Twitter-sphere and other social media — much like they use to stand in line at the iconic eatery —  to commemorate the life of Sylvia’s Restaurant founder.

Politicians sang praises of the restaurant owner whose collard greens and fried chicken helped bring tourists to Harlem and fed the likes of Bill Clinton, according to the New York Daily News.

Woods is the quintessential embodiment of an American success story. Emanating from meager means, she built a venerated institution from scratch. Woods was described as an “ambitious and charismatic beautician from South Carolina” who, in 1962, bought the 35-seat luncheonette where she had worked as a waitress. She built up the restaurant to become a New York City landmark that was a regular stop of tour buses and drew long lines of hungry crowds.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted: “NYC will never forget the Queen of Soul Food.”

U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat and longtime congressman from Harlem, tweeted, “RIP” to “my friend and founder of world famous Sylvia’s soul food.”

Take a look at Sylvia Woods throughout the years, including some of the dignitaries who stopped through, including President Obama.

–terry shropshire

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