Owners of Hartford's Soul Bowls Expand Business, Inspire Entrepreneurs

NBC Universal, Inc.

Meet the three visionaries behind Soul Bowls, a fast casual, soul food eatery on Wethersfield Avenue in Hartford’s South End: Malik Golden, Hughann “Chef Pop” Thomas and Willie Fair.

The moguls in the making opened the restaurant earlier this year and the star of the menu is the Soul Bowl, a modern combination of soul food staples served together in a single bowl.

The restaurant got its start when Golden, who grew up in Hartford and played several seasons in the NFL, purchased 489 Wethersfield Ave. He called on Chef Pop to cook up something cool in the kitchen.

“We just wanted to try something that was easy, convenient, quick to make, quick to eat,” Golden said.

“This is how it works. You get rice as your base, soul rice or white rice. Candied yams, collard greens or soul veg. Then you get a choice of protein. Fried chicken bites, fried shrimp bites, sautéed shrimp or steak bites,” Thomas said.

He and Fair were classmates at Conard High School in West Hartford. Fair studied business at UConn and was a partner in a fitness venture. 

Together, the team came up with the concept of fast casual soul food.

“Everything is better in a bowl. We wanted to figure out a way that we can create efficiency to be able to mass produce,” Fair said.

The business has seen major success since opening on March 9 and they’re hoping to replicate its success with many more locations.

“We would like to mirror the McDonald’s model. What we hope to do is acquire real estate. Mixed-use where we have apartments, living units where we can provide value with not only Soul Bowls, but other restaurant concepts or businesses as well,” Fair said.

“A thousand locations. Worldwide. We just partnered up with different chefs who have their own identity, their own passions and take them under our brand, really further the brand growth,” Chef Pop said.

The group is well on their way, with a second location set to open in a matter of months. They’re hoping it will also create an example for other young people that they, too, can achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.

“There may be kids that come in here and they never thought about owning a business because they’ve never seen someone that looks like them that owns a business. So we want to at least be that example and be able to show them what the possibilities are,” Fair said.

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