The first time I visited A Peace of Soul Vegan Kitchen was this past June. Someone recommended the restaurant on Twitter in a thread of Black-owned businesses in Columbia, and I figured a Black-owned vegan spot was worth a try (even though I’m not a practicing vegan). As soon as I stepped foot inside the restaurant, I immediately knew I had made the right decision.
I was greeted by an enticing aroma that can most aptly be described as a mixture of incense and soul food. D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” softly reverberated through a wireless speaker. A giant mural of a green Goddess-like woman sporting an afro made of leaves stared me down from an adjacent wall. There was a line stretching almost outside the door. Even more people stood aside in a waiting area patiently and attentively listening for their name to be called out like clockwork. As I stood in line, sensory overloaded, equipped with a protective face mask, I carefully scanned the menu above the register. I was overwhelmed with options.
When I finally reached the front of the line, a tall dreadlocked man greeted me warmly with a smile from behind the register. I noticed a staff of exclusively Black women culinary artists hastily preparing meals in the back. I felt at home. I told the cashier I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted and asked for his recommendation. He replied the restaurant’s “chicken” sandwich was the most popular item on the menu. I proceeded to order the "chicken" sandwich along with a pineapple lemon ginger beverage then joined the rest of the starving folks in the waiting area.
Not even five minutes later, the tall man called my name and I took my meal from him. After exchanging a “peace” farewell with him, I walked out silently and excitedly anticipating the first bite of that illustrious chicken sandwich. I couldn’t even wait until I got back home. I dove into my car and quickly snapped open the styrofoam takeout plate. A golden glow reflected off my face like that scene with the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. I grabbed ahold of the sandwich, held together by two pristine pretzel buns, and leaned in for a bite of historical proportions. To this day, it’s impossible for me to describe the initial sensation of that first bite in precise terms. Like love, it’s something that can’t be put into words. You just have to experience it for yourself.
Since that fateful day, I have been to A Peace of Soul many more times and have tried many more items on their menu. I have not been disappointed. They can take all my money, to be honest. I wanted to get more insight into the establishment of the restaurant and the origins of the food, so I reached out to the owner. The following is a transcript of our conversation.
Who is the founder(s)/owner(s) of A Peace of Soul?
My name is Folami Geter, and I'm the chef and owner. I purchased the family business (called Lamb's Bread) after working there on and off in 2014. I rebranded as A Peace of Soul in 2017.
What is your culinary/business background?
I worked in the family restaurant for a number of years after giving Corporate America a shot and being unsatisfied.
How long was the process leading up to the grand opening of the restaurant? When was the grand opening?
The renovation process began in 2018 and was completed late 2019. The Grand Opening was February 26, 2020.
What's the inspiration behind the name A Peace of Soul?
The name A Peace of Soul represents what you're getting with your meal. True soul food should nourish your body and provide a sense of comfort. We offer a number of plant based soul food favorites that are healthier than their traditional counterparts.
What made you want to open up a restaurant in the first place?
I purchased a business that was already a local favorite. It's food I eat daily also so it just made sense.
I was raised vegetarian and have never eaten meat. So vegan just happened to be the next logical choice.
Who developed the recipes? Where did they originate from?
I create the recipes on my own, mostly sticking to the traditional way things are made and using plant based ingredients instead.
What's one food you wish people would adopt into their diets more?
Leafy greens are food that most people just don't get enough of.
Are there plans to expand into a chain restaurant in other cities/states?
No plans for expansion at this time. A brick and mortar and food truck are already a tremendous responsibility.
What's the most rewarding part about running a business? What's the most frustrating?
The most rewarding part of owning a business is being an example to others and showing them that it can be done. Although I purchased an existing business, it has not been a cake walk. The most frustrating aspect is really just something that comes with being an entrepreneur. Ensuring that I have a work/life balance. Owning a business means that for the most part you're always working. It never really stops.
How do you think more Black-owned businesses/restaurants in Columbia could be established?
More Black businesses are actually being opened everyday. Traditional employment has begun to become unavailable for so many, so lots of people are being pushed into entrepreneurship. It's a blessing in disguise.