Sylvia Woods, the “Queen of Soul Food,” is the founder and owner of the world famous Sylvia’s Restaurant, located in the historical village of Harlem, since 1962. Sylvia was born and raised on her mother’s farm in Hemingway, South Carolina. Young and tenacious, Sylvia was the youngest person in the state of South Carolina to receive her beautician license. Her entrepreneurial spirit was ignited, and she opened her first business, a salon in the front room of her mother’s farmhouse. At a young age, Sylvia dreamed of marrying her childhood sweetheart Herbert, whom she met when they were eleven and twelve, while picking beans after school. One day, they decided to trade in the cotton fields for the bright lights of New York City.
In 1944, Sylvia married Herbert and started her journey towards a brighter future. Harlem called, and Sylvia answered, as she became a waitress at Johnson’s luncheonette. In 1962, Sylvia’s employer recognized her entrepreneurial spirit and offered to sell the luncheonette to her. Julia Pressley, Sylvia’s mother, who was a farmer and mid-wife, mortgaged her farm to loan her the money for the purchase. That small luncheonette has now flourished in a family owed enterprise consisting of ” Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem, Sylvia’s Also, Sylvia’s Catering Corp., a nation-wide line of Sylvia’s Food Products, two deliciously amazing cookbooks, and ATOC, Inc., a real estate holding company.
With this same entrepreneurial spirit Aracle Foods 3 LLC and partners has a license agreement with Sylvia’s Harlem. Now this Soul food eatery lives in the heart of south Saint Petersburg. Sylvia’s St. Pete resides in the beautifully restored Historic Manhattan Casino building.