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Chicago’s Keisha Rucker explains how the community helps her business thrive

Keisha Rucker (Photo credit: Rich Boy Cartel)

Keisha Rucker, co-owner of The Soul Shack restaurant in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, is weathering the storm of COVID-19. Rucker recently celebrated the one year anniversary of her business. Known as “Mz. Hyde Park,” Rucker is a staple in the community and continues to thrive.

Rolling out spoke with Rucker about her food, her community and a few tips on how to run a successful business.

Talk about what inspired you to start a business selling soul food.

I love cooking. It’s a tradition passed down from my great-grandmother to my grandmother, to my mother, down to me and now I am teaching my daughters. Of course, as a Black family, we always cook soul food and everyone loves it. The opportunity came along for me to open a soul food restaurant in the neighborhood that I grew up in. I was very excited and honored to do so. Our menu is a combination of things that I cook daily, but the complete menu is what I tend to cook for my family every Thanksgiving dinner and other holidays.

How has growing up in Hyde Park helped your business? How did you get the “Mz. Hyde Park” nickname?

Hyde Park has helped my business tremendously. I appreciate all of the support from my Kenwood Alumni and extended family and friends. The nickname “Mz. Hyde Park” came from people in the neighborhood. I was born and raised in Hyde Park. I went to school in Hyde Park, kindergarten through high school. I’ve raised my daughters also in the community from elementary school through high school. My best friend pointed out to me one day I have been in Hyde Park all of my life and having a business on 53rd Street is huge. We used to walk past here every day on our way home from school. I accept the title “Mz. Hyde Park” with pride.

What have been some of the challenges you have experienced during this pandemic and how have you overcome them?

We literally had to change our business overnight and make … sure we practice social distancing, wear masks and gloves along with the constant cleaning and sanitizing everything thoroughly to stay safe. The numbers did decrease tremendously, but I am forever grateful we have been able to stay afloat and [keep] our staff employed. We have all delivery services available [via] Chow Now and UberEats.

What are the top three tips that make for a successful restaurant?

The top three things that I would recommend to anyone that is opening a restaurant is to make sure you have great recipes, consistency in your product is important, and great customer service. Good food [and] good service is how we keep our customers happy.