A New Jersey power couple took over the beloved Black-owned Booker’s Restaurant & Bar in Philadelphia.
According to the Trenton Journal, Tracey and Cheri Syphax, the CEOs of Phax Entertainment Group, LLC, a multi-million dollar real estate development company, recently acquired the 5-year-old restaurant from Saba Tedla. The pair is ecstatic to be the new owners and add some flair while continuing to keep the rich, Black history of the establishment alive.
“We are thrilled to be taking a wonderful restaurant and awesome business model to the next level. Tracey and I are excited to become a part of the West Philly community and to continue the traditions that have made Booker’s Restaurant & Bar so special,” Cheri said in a press release about their venture.
Tedla had a vision for customers to have a fine dining experience when visiting Booker’s Restaurant & Bar and to encourage the Black community. She named the restaurant after Booker Wright, a Mississippi man born in 1927 that worked in the service industry during the Jim Crow era. In the 1960s, Wright was a notable Black server at Lusco’s, an all-white restaurant established in 1933 in Greenwood, Mississippi, according to The New York Times. He saved the money he made waiting tables to open a “Blacks only” restaurant named Booker’s Place.
As a Black man growing up in the South, one of the most hostile racist environments during the segregation era and Civil Rights Movement in America, he witnessed and experienced much adversity. These interactions led him to be an advocate for equality. Wright participated in the NBC News documentary Mississippi: A Self-Portrait, which highlighted the city of Greenwood and detailed his treatment as a Black server in the Sourthern region during the Jim Crow era.
“Some people are nice, some not,” the business owner said. “Some call me Booker, some call me John, some call me Jim.” And some, he said, addressed him with a racist epithet. “All of that hurts, but you have to smile.”
When it aired, many people from his town were shocked and furious at his truth. Locals trashed Booker’s Place, and he was immediately fired from Lusco’s, randomly beaten by a local police officer and murdered at the age of 46.
The Syphaxes’ goal is to keep serving Black Excellence on a silver platter for all who visit this gem through “exemplary service to customers.”
“As a 28-year serial entrepreneur and entrepreneurial instructor, I recognize great models and Saba Tedla has built a great model of excellent service, great food in a warm and inviting atmosphere that has made [Booker’s] a staple [go-to] restaurant in the heart of West Philly,” Tracey told the Trenton Journal. “Our purchase of [Booker’s] now opens endless possibilities for this well-known corridor. We are excited to become a member of this thriving [up-and-coming] neighborhood.”