“We got our tables six feet apart,” Brown says. “We’re offering dine-in, but a lot of people really aren’t dining in. I think this virus thing has everybody so scared. But most of ours is carry out. People who normally would dine-in that pick up their food and go on.”
She’s seen a big difference on Sundays. “After church we’d have all the church people. And a lot of the churches are still closed, so we don’t have our church crowd like we normally would have. So the more people that come in are mostly working class folk — our construction workers. And MLGW. All of them. They come in and dine in. But otherwise, not a lot of people are dining in. A lot of people are working from home.”
Her takeout business is thriving. She began offering curbside, takeout, and Bite Squad and DoorDash delivery as soon as she was able. But, she says, the pandemic “hurt us bad, business-wise. We did about a third of normal what we would do. I had to let some of my people go. It was tough.” But, Brown says, “I came in every day and cooked.”
She opened for dine-in about a month ago. “I was really trying to keep everybody from coming in, but they told us we could have 30 percent dine-in, so people knew we were open for dine-in. And I had some of my customers that live right down the street. They’ve been getting my food to go. They were so happy: ‘Hey, we were just waiting to come in and sit down and get some of this good food.’ I wasn’t going to turn them away. They’re my regulars. They’ve been coming in ever since I’ve been here.”
Brown doesn’t skip a beat when asked to name her most popular items. “Greens, yams, and meatloaf. Everybody loves our meatloaf. And greens? We won’t even discuss those greens. If you don’t have greens people get mad. They all walk out if you don’t have greens.
“Basically, the story on the greens is we don’t cook with meat. We don’t cook any of our vegetables with meat at all,” Brown says. “Food has its own flavor. So, the only thing I do is add the herbs to enhance the flavor to the greens and not take away from the flavor. The greens have their own flavor. Most people cannot believe that our greens taste that good and we don’t use meat.”
Her fried chicken is “very, very popular. People come every day and want our fried chicken, but we only do fried chicken once a week. We do it on Tuesdays. But I’ve got a special marinade I marinate my chicken in. My chicken is marinated to the bone.
“One of the things in our marinade is we do a little poultry seasoning, a little garlic powder, a little onion powder,” she continues. “And we do a season salt. We’ve got a couple of other things we put in there we try to keep a little secret.”
Her meat loaf, which includes honey in the tomato sauce, is featured on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Brown hasn’t let the pandemic get the better of her. “I never did get depressed or down because, you know what? I’m a religious person. I get up in the church and I believe the Lord will provide. And he always does. I’m a praying person. No, I didn’t get depressed. You just have to pray a lot. That’s the only thing you can do. And not only do I pray for my business, but I pray for the other people’s businesses in the city.
“I tell you what. Our business is doing great. Compared to a lot of people’s business, our business is really fantastic, to be honest with you. Because of the Lord. My health is good. I can’t complain a bit.”
Sanitizing at her restaurant isn’t something new because of the virus, Brown says. “I grew up in the country. We’ve always been clean. We bleached down. We’d clean down everything. That’s how I grew up. Cleanliness has always been a big thing. Clorox. We’d Clorox our dishes. We mopped our floors with Clorox. We really scrubbed and cleaned. It’s nothing new to me.”
A silver lining was Brown’s recent tie-in with FedEx.“I recently became a vendor for FedEx. I make food for certain shifts.”
So, it’s business — just about as usual — at Peggy’s Healthy Home Cooking.
“God did not give us a spirit of fear,” Brown says, adding, “I don’t live in fear. It’s not part of me. You have to take precautions. People are dying from this stuff. I wear a mask if I’m in a crowd. Yeah, I’ll put my mask on.”
And, she says, “Sometimes God has to do things to get our attention. I think things happen in order for him to get our attention and let us know we’re not running anything. We’re not in charge of anything. He gave us a mind to choose right or wrong, but so much has gone wrong. We have strayed so far from the Lord. I think sometimes he has to do things to bring us back.”
Meanwhile, Brown says, “I’ll do my do and talk to the Lord and be blessed. That’s what you do. That’s exactly what you do.”
Peggy’s Healthy Home Cooking is at 326 South Cleveland; (901) 474-4938