Soul food restaurant owner opens up about business and announces new location

The new location will be inside of the Best Western Hotel, 3050 University Pkwy.

Soul food restaurant owner opens up about business and announces new location
November 17
14:01 2021

Sonya Waddell opened Simply Soul restaurant in March of 2012. Over the next decade, she built the business into a staple in the Black community. Now she is opening a second location, named Simply Sonya’s, and hopes this one brings just as much success as the first.

The new location will be inside of the Best Western Hotel, 3050 University Pkwy. It has always been a dream for Waddell to open a second location and the timing was right for her to do so.  The grand opening is planned for tomorrow, Nov. 19, which is her daughter’s birthday.

Cooking was something Waddell saw her mother do routinely, so it was only natural for her to follow suit. Waddell’s mother was her inspiration to want to open the business.

“My mom used to cater when I was a kid and I would help her for church events or family and friends’ events,” said Waddell. “I watched her really hustle a lot, with five kids and being a single mom, so I just enjoyed helping my mom.”

Waddell and her now ex-husband started Simply Soul, as he was an aspiring chef and felt this would be the best opportunity for him to showcase his skills. Waddell also enjoyed cooking, as well as the business aspects of the job. She has been running the business by herself since 2016 and has enjoyed the almost decade the business has been open. 

“I think it’s going well, but of course it’s had its ebbs and flows,” she said about the business. “It’s been great, and I have learned a lot of how to make quick adjustments so it can be successful. It’s been a dream realized for me, because it really doesn’t feel like work.”

Unlike many other businesses, the pandemic actually was a good thing for Waddell and Simply Soul. The community rallied behind the business to make sure the doors stayed open.

“It actually kind of boosted mine, I think because people wanted to support Black businesses,” she said about the pandemic. “I was already pretty much a staple in the community, and I think they sought me out because I was Black owned, and I was a woman.

“I didn’t have a lot of people sitting in; however, people would tell me they wanted to make sure I stayed. They came and supported and people who haven’t been in a while just started returning. It’s strange, but it worked in my favor and I am grateful. Then, of course, there were grants, locally and nationally. The pandemic was a good turnaround for me. It helped me to not work as hard, but it just helped me be more wise about my time and I believe it is why I was able to open this second location.”

Since opening her first location, Waddell has always wanted to have at least three locations of the restaurant. The dream has been in the works for nearly a decade and she is excited for the opening of the new location.

“I was always looking, but I really stopped looking during the pandemic,” she said about looking for a second location. “The beginning of this year, things were looking good and I was thinking about adding more hours to Simply Soul, but I knew I probably shouldn’t, so I just said, ‘Let me start thinking about something else.’”

“I just started looking around for places to see if they would suit me. Some of them were okay, but they were not the perfect marriage for me. This location became the perfect marriage.”

Waddell says she was looking into the new location five years ago, before the hotel was renovated. She presented them with the idea five years ago, but they chose to go in a different direction. This year they reached back out to her and the timing was right for both parties.

The new location will be open seven days a week, Waddell says. The hours of operation will be Mon-Thurs, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m, Fri-Sat, 11 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.  

Waddell says she is very nervous about opening up a new location. She says all of her family and friends are trying to reassure her that it will be a success, but she is still somewhat tense until the new location opens. 

“I have to say that I have had an overwhelming response on Facebook and people have already come by thinking I’m open already, and I tell them no, not ‘til next week,” she stated. “I am just hoping they come back. I am always nervous about a new venture because people don’t have to come, but when they do, I am so grateful. I am excited, but I am totally nervous.”

Out of everything on the menu, Waddell would say her meatloaf, chicken salad, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens are some of her biggest sellers. She says those items are very popular with her customers and routinely sell out.

“It just sells out and it’s so good though,” she said about her meatloaf. “It’s truly a comfort meal with the meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens. People love it and I have customers that work around in that area and that’s all they come and get. I ask them if they want anything different, but they won’t get anything else.”

Waddell says oxtails and meatloaf will be on the menu every day at the new location. She says there will be some changes to the menu at the new location, versus the original location.

A Winston-Salem native and graduate of Carver High School, Waddell attended Winston-Salem State University. She has two children and one grandchild. 

Waddell says the legacy of her mother is living through her.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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