The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the restaurant industry and downtown neighborhoods across the country.
But one restaurant based in downtown Hartford has found a way to thrive and even expand to create new opportunities for the community at the same time.
While a trip to the Caribbean might not be so easy these days, you can find all its flavors at The Russell Grab and Go right on New Britain Avenue in Hartford.
Rice and peas, oxtails, and patties - Caribbean staples that are all served up at the new location six days a week. The Jamaican takeout is the latest venture for owner Hugh Russell who opened the original downtown restaurant and bar on Pratt Street in 2005.
The goal was a simple one: to bring the flavors of his homeland to Hartford.
“I’m very excited to come into this part of town because over the years we’ve known that there is no West Indian presence in terms of food in this area," said Russell. “It was important for us to be here. We are the only Black restaurant in downtown Hartford and it was important for us to stay there.”
While many restaurants struggled to survive the pandemic, The Russell has actually grown its footprint, nearly tripling its size when the original restaurant relocated to a new space on Allyn Street.
“We’ve been supported at the restaurant for over 15 years. People vowed to make sure that we stayed no matter what," Russell said.
For the man behind the brand, that good fortune has created new jobs and opportunity to help young people from the community learn his business.
"It’s not just bringing food here but being able to train the youths in hospitality and to create a future for them. It’s important to stay in the neighborhood where I can get youth off the street and teach them cooking and hospitality."
Uplifting the community through opportunity, food and a good time are the legacies The Russell hopes continue for years to come.
Hugh Russell said he’s hoping to expand the restaurants to other neighborhoods. He’s also set to open another downtown Hartford lunch location once the workforce begins to return. The Russell is hiring for all food service positions. Job seekers can email a resume to: TheRussell.Hires@gmail.com