SidWill’s: A Plate Full of Love and Opportunity
When you walk through the doors of SidWill’s Café in Jamestown you’re greeted with the smell of good food followed by a warm reception from the staff. The small café gives you the feeling of sitting in your grandma’s kitchen waiting on a plate of her famous meatloaf.
The business, which is located on Main Street behind the The Deck in Jamestown, has a constant chime from the bell on the door as the flow of customers come through for lunch, dinner or special orders Monday through Friday beginning at 11 a.m. and Saturday at noon.
Owners William Wyatt and Sidney Young began the business as a subsidiary catering business to Wyatt’s then Libby Hill Franchise.
Wyatt worked for Libby Hill for 28 years, with 15 of those years as a Libby Hill franchisee in Danville, Va. and Madison. When Wyatt exited the Libby Hill business in 2012 and Young retired in 2014, they decided to crank the catering aspect back up but add a café as well. Opening the café’s doors in June 2014, they couldn’t have imagined that they’d be where they are now.
“The café was to originally help keep the catering business afloat. After about eight months, the café really took off and gained its legs. It has actually helped grow the catering aspect of the business,” Wyatt said. “SidWill’s is comfort food. It certainly has a southern flair but I wouldn’t consider it soul food. We feed a very diverse group of people here. The place is kind of eclectic in its look but people from every background and ethnicity eat here, comfortably.”
The café is a dream come true for both partners.
According to Wyatt, he always envisioned his own place and this café fits his dream of being able to cook, prep and talk to his customers at the same time in a very intimate environment.
“I can do that here until it gets busy. Then my focus is on production,” he said. “I get to share with folks that come in whether it’s about what’s going on in the economy, daily or just what’s going on in their lives.”
For Young, it’s all about the food. He loves to cook and jokes that if this wasn’t an option he’d have to join a health club. When asked how he comes up with his menu choices he explains that he simply thinks about what he would want to eat.
“We wanted to come up with something that would appeal to everyone including people who wanted to get away from the drive-thru but not spend all that time in the kitchen. SidWill’s means that they don’t have to cook,” Young said. “I cook pretty much anything but we were looking around and there weren’t many places for you to go for comfort food and there was no place in Jamestown. We decided to start there and see if there was a market there and it was.”
Besides offering its top sellers like beef and turkey meatloaf, macaroni and cheese or collard greens, the café offers job opportunities to those in need. Their employees may come from work programs, be retirees, teenagers or someone just looking for a second chance.
“We’ve always viewed this as a ministry so we’ve found the opportunity to find some people who are committed to learning. They don’t have to have all the skills. Someone who may have started off washing dishes may now work on the line,” Wyatt said.
He said that there are two requirements that they ask of employees: that they have a great attitude and that they work hard.
“The majority of folks we’ve hired, we look at their strengths and go from there. We make it work if they are willing to,” Wyatt said. “Our goal is to grow them as far as we can here and then move them in another direction. We want them to take the skill sets that they learn here, put them on their resume so it can catapult them to the top of whatever field they want to go to.”
Young agrees, saying that he teaches the staff standard kitchen skills and safety that are of a higher standard than the health departments.
“One of the things that was important to both of us was that we provide jobs for the community. It feels good to know that you’re bringing something to the community that the community finds valuable,” Young said. “When they move on to a better position it makes you feel proud. We don’t want to see them go but as they develop on to something bigger we become their biggest cheerleader.”
In its third year of business, Wyatt and Young have done what most startups don’t get a chance to do – hit the black.
“Unfortunately, for startups that aren’t franchisees, only 10 percent of them make it through the first year and only one percent make it through the first five years,” Wyatt said. “We feel blessed that we’re two and half years and going strong.”
He said that after eight months in the business they weren’t hitting the numbers they needed to be successful and weren’t taking a salary. After already agreeing with his wife that he would walk away if after a year if the business didn’t show a profit, Wyatt was looking at bringing in someone to take his place.
“In that ninth month, a lot of good things began happening for us. We picked up a lot of catering events and did a program on Fox 8 for Recipe Wednesday,” Wyatt said. “By the time our first year came around we were in the black and moving in the right direction. For the last year and a half things have just continued to grow at an incredible pace.”
A lot of that success has come from word of mouth.
“When I moved here I was concerned that we were hard to find. The first thing that someone told me was if you’re good in Jamestown people will tell everybody. If you’re not good in Jamestown people will tell everybody,” Wyatt said, laughing. “People that like this place love this place. It’s hard to find but people are determined to find it. Once they do, they send friends, relatives and they come back. On my menu, there’s a saying that says ‘It’s the anointing that makes the difference’ and we certainly believe that. We feel like there’s a special anointing in this place and we want to provide a great dining experience and want folks to feel better after coming in here.”
Although Young isn’t on any of them, he credits social media with their success as well.
“Folks who are on social media spread the word for us. The response has been amazing,” he said.
The men hope to have an operational food truck within the next year and a second location strictly for catering in the next 18 to 24 months, allowing them to do parades, homecomings, races and lunch to local businesses.
“Jamestown has become a stopping place within itself for folks who come through. Some of the best things are hidden gems. That’s what we are,” Wyatt said.
For more information visit www.SidWills.com or call (336)-454-0021.