TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Black Restaurant Week is taking over Tampa Bay this month, with over 30 restaurants participating.

Black Restaurant Week was created in 2016 by a group of friends; Warren Luckett, Falayn Ferrell and Derek Robinson.

“We wanted to create a platform that was all inclusive to showcase the unique things they were doing in the community, bring that awareness and help thrive the local economy,” said Ferrell.

The initiative launched in 2016 and in seven years the organization has supported 3,000 restauranteurs, bartenders, chefs, caterers, and food trucks. BRW is in several regions throughout the country. The organization finds different Black-owned restaurants and covers and launches free marketing campaigns for all participating restaurants.

“When you look at a lot of restaurants in our community they are starting out with a lack of capital and that does have an effect on your marketing,” Ferrell said. “We cover all marketing costs of the campaign and we don’t take any percentage of sales.”

BRW also has a non-profit, Feed the Soul Foundation. They give out small business grants and provide business development training through their foundation. Feed the Soul Foundation gave three Tampa Bay restaurants $10,000 grants and will provide them with six months of business development training. Those restaurants include 7th + Grove, M & R Cafe Southern Cuisine with Flavor or Mr. B’s Southern Cuisine.

Maria Rumlin is the owner of M&R Cafe, located at 3320 E. Osborne Ave. in East Tampa. She’s had a love for cooking since she was a little girl.

“My mom would sit me on the counter to watch me while she would cook and in turn I would watch her cook” Rumlin said. “I would go outside and make hamburger patties with dirt and take the leaves and make my rice. I didn’t realize my love until I got older.”

Rumlin was working in corporate America, but when she found herself without a job, she turned to her true love, cooking.

“My friend told this woman that she had a caterer for her and I was like no ma’am,” she said.

Well, Rumlin took the gig and it didn’t stop there. She started doing catering gigs by cooking inside of her home, but in 2019 she took a leap of faith and opened her first restaurant, M&R Cafe. However, Maria and her husband received devastating news shortly after opening.

“Our son was diagnosed with cancer in March of 2019 and in of December of 2021, he passed,” Rumlin said. “He was 27, so for two years straight we were battling cancer and still trying to maintain, going to doctors, doing chemo, that was a life changing moment.”

Rumlin went to work the next day after her son passed. She said it didn’t really set-in until two months later.

“That’s when the depression hit, but I knew I had to here,” she said. “When I would come in and feel like I cant do this anymore, you have that one customer that comes in and says I’m really glad you’re here, that meant everything.”

Now, as a participant of Black Restaurant Week, it means everything to her.

“I always hear Marcus say I’m proud of you, just keep pushing,” she said.

Her faith and perseverance is why she is one of the featured restaurants in Tampa Bay’s Black Restaurant Week. M&R is receiving a $10,000 grant and six months of development training as well.

“It was bigger than the money to me because my thing was learning the business,” Rumlin said. “I’m going to learn and soak in all that I can, that’s what’s important.”

Rumlin plans to take that knowledge to continue growing her business, while also using her story to inspire the next generation.

“It feels like you’re doing something,” she said. “There are other Black girls, young girls who say, ‘I can do this too’.”

M&R Cafe is open Wednesday – Sunday from 7:30 a.m. – 11:10 a.m. for breakfast and 12:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. for lunch and dinner.

Other restaurants participating in Black Restaurant Week:

  • 7th + Grove
  • Coasis Restaurant and Bar
  • Duality Vegan Cafe
  • Zin’s House of Flavors
  • Kay’s Kitchen
  • Bradley’s Family Restaurant
  • TCM Cookie
  • Mr. B’s Southern Cuisine

Black Restaurant Week runs from November 10 – November 20. For a full list of restaurants participating, click here.