Tamika Hurley-Carr, Co-owner of Butterfat Bistro in Hapeville, Georgia, has more than 20 years of food industry experience under her belt. Hurley-Carr kickstarted her career when she was young, starting her catering company with her mother, Richardson’s Family Affair Catering. She studied at Le Cordon Bleu of Culinary Arts Atlanta and worked at several upscale restaurants in the area, like Bones Restaurant and Glenn’s Kitchen. Hurley-Carr served as a chef mentor for Tri-Cities high school culinary students for a few years, where she eventually met her future business partner, Genia Williams, for Fat Sisters, LLC - and Butterfat Bistro began.
Where are you from and what led you to open a business in Hapeville?
THC: I am a native Atlantan and Grady Memorial Hospital baby, born and raised. I live in Southwest Atlanta and wanted to open Butterfat Bistro in a local area, so I decided on Hapeville. I wanted to do something for the community and really show it off in the community I love so much.
What kind of work did you do before opening Butterfat Bistro?
THC: I ran a catering company for 16 years and worked in restaurants until I decided to become a full-time business owner with the bakery and bistro.
How did you enter the restaurant industry?
THC: I started my collegiate education at Georgia Southern University, where I studied to be a lawyer. Throughout my education there, I worked part-time at restaurants on-campus to support myself. I worked a corporate job for a while, but my calling was always in the food industry. My grandmother taught me how to cook when I was six years old, and everyone in our family cooked, so it came naturally. Which eventually birthed Richardson’s Family Affairs Catering, the start of a career in a field I’m passionate about.
Can you tell us about how your first day of business went? What does it look like now?
THC: Shutting down our family catering company and starting a new business was an eye-opener. It has been tough to get people to see that our catering company and bakery are the same - just with a different name. Both businesses stand for the same concept of loving our customers and wanting to provide them with healthy food. Healthy does not have to relate to flavorless food; we are flavorful, and we can live a lot longer if we think differently about what we put in our mouths!
Did you have any specific goals before opening? If so, what did that look like, and has it changed along the way?
THC: Before opening, our goal was to open something that wasn’t happening on the Southside of town. We wanted people to know that they don’t have to go to Buckhead, Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods to get good, wholesome food. Things don’t always have to be fried and smothered! We love picking several ingredients, throwing them together and seeing what we can make out of it - and showing others they can do the same.
How do you hope to grow your brand in the future?
THC: More details on our expansion plans will be revealed later. We will potentially be opening a food cart in the South Fulton area, but we’re also kicking off with a new partner to provide meals to South Fulton High School teachers.
What does it mean to you to be a Black business owner?
THC: It means a lot to me, because we stand for enhancing our community. With that being said, I love that we as a Black community understand it’s okay to think outside of the box, it’s okay to want more, to do more, to achieve more and it’s okay to understand that you don’t always have to expect the norm. If we think more and better of ourselves, other people will as well.
I want Black business owners to know we have to do more, because if people come together, try to understand and support each other, we will all be so much better for it.
How do you believe your business contributes to your community?
THC: We have been trying to come together with our community. Every time someone purchased a jam, we would donate 5% of sales to a fund for Crohn’s disease. I’m a survivor of both Chron’s disease and breast cancer - now, we are trying to tie all of that together and help local students as well. We want to help young people and allow them to be a part of our organization.
How does it feel to contribute to the same community you were raised in?
THC: It feels awesome, it really does. I tear up thinking about it. I’ve watched it blossom and bloom, and to see what all is happening is amazing to me. Seeing Main Street and the Hapeville community flourish is a phenomenal thing.
What are some challenges you’ve faced as a Black business owner? How have you overcome them?
THC: Trying to secure backing and financing is tough. Also, trying to establish our credibility is difficult. We may be small, but we’re still dependable. But through it all, it has allowed the businesses to grow and see where their strengths are. We are still navigating COVID-19 and trying to secure the Payment Protection Program for our employees.
Can you tell us about a time your community has come together in a time of need?
THC: I love Hapeville, because it’s so cute. I love how small it is - everyone comes together in an amazing way. The arts, restaurants and businesses come together, and there is a movie each week and the whole community joins to watch. That’s the beauty of it; that’s what I love about Hapeville. Each individual business in the community supports each other.
How has COVID-19 affected your business in Hapeville?
THC: This pandemic has been full of unknowns for us, but we remain thankful because our catering business is booming. We have lots of to-go and bakery orders.