People tell me they love it. I’ve gone from what I used to do on weekends to doing it full time. My business has quadrupled. Now I have four employees.”
His mother can tell you why hospitality and comforting aromas drift through her son’s restaurant. Orla Martin said her mother, Helen Atkins, catered parties for wealthy families in Norfolk. Her mother, who passed at age 75, also worked at the Hague Club. His entrepreneurial inclination also comes from her grandmother, Beulah Atkins, who used to take in laundry.
“I’ve taught my children it’s all about the presentation,” said Orla Martin, the mother of 11 children, and the wife of the Rev. Ernest Martin who has pastored Full Gospel Church of Deliverance for nearly 50 years. “Basically he learned everything from me, his father, and his brother Delanor.
As she reared her children, she also worked in sales. She has sold shoes, furniture, and women’s clothing for more than 40 years. She also launched a club for minister’s wives called the Daughters of El-Shaddai. It is support group for the wives of ministers. It meets once a month.
“I’ve always taught my children to set the trend, don’t follow it,” she explained. “I am grateful my son is doing a good job. He has followed the lessons I’ve taught him. It’s a family thing. His sisters and brothers work with him.”
He said his mother, father, and others set the pattern. Their lessons have been inspirational and sustaining. He and all of his siblings are active in the church their father pastors. He is an ordained pastor, and the minister of music. Other siblings usher, sing in the choir, or hold other positions. Members of many churches stroll through his door, study the menu, and order.
His menu offers various soul food staples including pork chops, ribs, chicken, meat loaf, turkey legs, and seafood. He offers a wide range of fresh vegetables and time-honored sides. He has a catering business.
“I’m very family oriented,” he said. ”All of the inspiration comes from my Mom and Dad.”
Cynthia Terry said soul food is a thriving specialty business. Terry partnered with Martin in March. The future looks bright said Terry, who worked 12 years as the deli and bakery manager at Harris Teeter, and seven years as a manager in a Florida supermarket chain.
“We are successful because of customer service, portion size, cost, and affordability,” Terry said. “This has been a great experience for me because I’ve always managed restaurants. Now, I get to go and work for myself. I go to work but it’s for me.
“People say our potato salad is crazy good,” Terry said, laughing. “They say his mother gave him gold when she taught him how to make the macaroni and cheese. For anyone who is thinking of going into business I would tell them to take the first step. Follow your goals. Give yourself a timetable. We are taking soul food to another level and working our way to the top.”
Plans call for expanding into other areas including Atlanta.
“I hope it will one day be a chain,” Timothy Martin said. “I believe there is room for more soul food restaurants. We need to support each other. When we do we will be able to hire members from your family.”