The Daily Gamecock

Column: Try something new, local

Nothing is better than buying a home-cooked meal knowing you are supporting a family in your community. It is important to give back to those hardworking families by simply eating at their restaurant and even engaging in a conversation.

While it might seem like a small gesture to us, it means a lot more to them. A lot of them are starting these businesses to spread their love for cooking and a part of who they are, as well.

Down on Harden Street, you will find a family-owned Jamaican restaurant named Island Grill. I had the pleasure of speaking to the owner, Norris Ellis. Not only is he a wonderfully kind man, but he is also very hardworking.

"I grew up with my parents having their own business, so it was only natural for me to want to do my own, and I have been doing cooking since I was a little boy, so it's just a natural transition,” Ellis said. 

Ellis said COVID-19 has impacted his business positively through customers' changing tastes. 

“It makes people appreciate good quality food more. It is better for their health – they’re staying away from fried food and move over towards home-cooked type of food,” Ellis said.

Fortunately, COVID-19 has not negatively affected him, and he has been able to keep working. As the owner of a local restaurant, Ellis said a lot of regulars are what help keep his business going. Ellis said seeing a new face “gives a good feeling naturally, and a lot of fun, it is the word of mouth that has got them to come in the first place.”

Eating at these locally owned restaurants gives us the chance to impact them directly because we help grow their businesses. This can happen in ways that we might not even realize. You might end up posting a picture of your food online for others to see, and that alone can persuade others to try the place, too.

Not only do we affect them, but they affect us when we become regulars and they become a friend. If you introduce yourself, they will often remember you. If you spread kindness and positivity, they will appreciate you. While at Island Grill, Norris even shared some of his freshly squeezed fruit juice after we kept a great conversation going.

My favorite part about eating locally is the new foods from different cultures that I get to try. It helps promote diversity by allowing you to branch out and try new things as you interact with people from different backgrounds. According to “Serving Up Diversity: Major trends in the food-services sector” by IBIS World, the “growing demographic has introduced a vast assortment of spicy cuisines to American palates, and the market’s response has been overwhelmingly positive.” Not only are we being introduced to different cuisines, but we can also enhance our cooking at home.

Supporting these local restaurants is also significant because the impact is often greater than we can imagine. The article “Why Supporting Local Businesses is Important” by Aybla Grill Greek Mediterranean Food states, “supporting local businesses is good for the environment because they often have a smaller carbon footprint than larger companies.”

This is a small yet substantial act that allows us to also take care of our planet, too. While running a business can be hard work, business owners still decide to do it for themselves and for those who they might impact along the way. So, try something new. Try local.


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