Community, Comfort and Inclusiveness: A Recipe for Success

Fernay McPherson grew up in San Francisco’s Fillmore District, a neighborhood known for its vibrant culture and population of immigrants and African Americans who left the Deep South during the Great Migration. To this day, Fernay still lives in the Fillmore District, a block from her childhood home. However, the area has changed immensely since Fernay’s childhood, and this played a large part in motivating Fernay to start her food business, Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement (inspired by her late grandmother Lillie Bell and great-aunt Minnie.)

Through Minnie Bell’s, Fernay works to claim space and identity in in the Bay Area, where black people have been edged out over the past few decades. Fernay remembers a neighborhood that was rich with black-owned businesses, but many families and businesses were  forced to move out for a variety of reasons (a major contributing factor was the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency tear down of homes and businesses in the Fillmore district in the 1950s and 1960s, which displaced thousands of people).

Fernay’s journey to open Minnie Bell’s shows her resilience and determination. Though food was a central part of her family’s gatherings and holidays, Fernay did not initially view cooking as a career path. She held many jobs before starting Minnie Bell’s, including working for the San Francisco school district and AT&T. She then went to culinary school in Sacramento and externed at Brown Sugar Kitchen. In 2011, she joined La Cocina’s incubator program, and Minnie Bell’s began to take off. In her time as a chef, she has run a food truck, catering business and pop-up, and in 2017, she was named one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Rising Star Chefs.

When the LONA team met Fernay, she had been operating a rotating kiosk (owned by La Cocina) at the Emeryville Public Market, and had just been offered a permanent space! This was a huge milestone for Fernay, but in order to scale her business and increase catering sales, she needed a convection oven to prepare her food quickly and in large batches.

It was an easy decision to support Fernay with a grant to purchase her convection oven. Minnie Bell’s represents community and inclusiveness, and strives to inspire comfort- like feeling of sitting around your family kitchen table. Fernay is thoughtful and purposeful about every aspect of her business. She employs young people of color as a way to provide opportunities to her direct community, and she takes every opportunity to share her experiences so that younger generations can see a woman-of-color owned business thriving and growing. We are lucky to know and support Fernay along her journey.

To support future grantees like Fernay, invest in LONA today!

For catering and inquiries, please contact Fernay at minniebells@gmail.com.

-Amy Gragnolati, Co-founder

Photos by Monica Lo,  Menu Stories

Photos by Monica Lo, Menu Stories

Amy Gragnolati