By Camille Williams
Displaced West End soul food restaurant owner Monica Williams will reestablish her restaurant in Bond Hill, near the corner of Paddock Road and California Avenue.
Although Williams says she wanted to stay in the West End, she said it was unrealistic due to rising prices. For six years, she leased the space for Just Cookin’, but now, she owns her new location.
“In our community, we don’t always get opportunities like this,” Williams said. “And being part of this to inspire people who look like me, children, young adults—it’s one thing to say, ‘just do it, you can do anything,’ but it’s another thing to walk out on faith and just do it.”
The recently purchased building, which housed Roper’s Restaurant, will need some renovations prior to the grand opening, set for January 1st, 2020. She inherited a near complete, fully operational kitchen from the retired former restaurant owners, stocked with freezers, convention ovens and countless other cooking supplies.
The 1,368 square feet restaurant, an upgrade from her 1,000 square feet West End location, will maintain the Southern, homestyle design concept and menu that defines Just Cookin’.
“I took every dollar and dime and I put it into Just Cookin’—and look at God,” Williams said. “Because at one point, I thought I lost it all.”
During the one year that Williams has been out of business, she had to take a third shift job at Kroger making minimum wage.
“It’s been a long, hard-fought battle, but this is a tremendous victory for her and for the community,” her advocate Brian Garry said. “It’s Bond Hill’s gain that she’s here.”
Just Cookin’ was displaced due to the development of the FCC soccer stadium. As a result of months of work between Williams, Garry, City council members, and countless other advocates, a settlement was reached between the Port Authority, FCC Soccer Team owners and the City of Cincinnati. The three entities agreed to contribute $250,000 in financial support, significantly negotiated up from $20,000.
In the interim, the Port Authority provided Williams a food truck to operate. However, Garry says they are fighting for permission to use the food truck for two years, as well as amenities in the area and permission for Williams to drive it.
“She’s been so patient and determined throughout this process, that I am just amazed and inspired by her ability to stay positive in the face of adversity,” Garry said.