NORFOLK, Va. - "A new twist on an old soul."
That's how the owner of Southern Eats in Downtown Norfolk describes her restaurant's menu.
When Ginnele Shonyo, a former banker, and her husband Brian, a military veteran, opened in May of 2019, it was a step they never thought they'd take. But after leaving the banking industry, Shonyo worked with a former client on his restaurant and eventually decided to open her own place.
Southern Eats is located in the Percolator building at the corner of Monticello Avenue and Charlotte Street, with a menu that features modern takes on southern staples like Chicken and Waffles and their famous pork chop.
Shonyo says she and her husband spent the first year in business getting the restaurant on its feet. Sharing an intersection with Norfolk Scope Arena certainly helped, as did the close proximity to venues like Chrysler Hall and The NorVa.
Then, the pandemic hit.
"With the Admirals (hockey team) cutting their season out it hurt us tremendously. We were a huge hockey hub," said Shonyo. "I don't think many people in our industry are going to survive much longer if this continues at the rate it's going."
Shonyo tells News 3 monthly business is down about 77 percent on average compared to pre-pandemic numbers with some months as much as 95 percent.
Some days, the wait staff leaves without any tips, she says.
Knowing others are in the same boat or worse is heartbreaking. She hopes people will remember to keep supporting small businesses, even as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise.
"We have over 5,000 followers on Facebook, people who love us. Come back out again," she said. "Go to our website on Facebook and order online through Facebook, but definitely consider supporting the small businesses. There's a lot of us here in Downtown Norfolk."
Southern Eats is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12-8p.