We all have childhood memories. For Ronnie Johnson, the founder of Mrs. Dorsey’s Kitchen (MDK), the most notable ones are revolved around his grandmother’s kitchen, a place that’s inspired the 33-year-old’s decision to pursue a coveted spot in the New York City grilled cheese making business.
In an interview with Faithwire, Johnson explained that Mrs. Dorsey ignited his love for people and bringing them together.
“I think about my grandmother’s kitchen table and you know it has always been the place for comfort food, but spiritual guidance too. A lot of dinners at the dinner table, Thanksgivings, good times, bad times, sad times happen at that kitchen table.”
A jumping off point for the Crown Heights, Brooklyn based place, who wants to treat everyone like their family, including myself.
As Ronnie and I sat down on the bar stools, my fellow University of Michigan classmate showed me his work home. One that is filled with positivity and obviously almost all the variations of cheese and bread you can think of.
In the midst of this, falls inspirational words of wisdom, including the counter tops, plastered with whispering words that mimic positive thoughts and affirmations.
“The counter you see here is about 70 percent of the concept originally planned.”
“We didn’t get the original counter. We took some hits,” Johnson told Faithwire. These, “hits” include one of the main reasons why the doors to MDK might have never opened.
“The biggest set back occurred before I opened up the restaurant and that totaled about $80,000 that went out the window, that I needed.”
A contractor just stopped showing up, even though he was being paid and approved a schedule.
“My business partner and I weren’t seeing eye to eye on things. It got ugly. We split ways and that included gaining his investment back as well. We went through the litigation process and it took a very long time. I am still paying the lawsuit.”
“I hired a second contractor a couple of months later and it took him almost nine months to get where it was about 80 percent but even he quit at some point and walked off the job on me.”
“It came at that point, where I am really asking, ‘God why did I have to make $1 that day at the pop-up market?”
“It came at that point, where I am really asking, ‘God why did I have to make $1 that day at the pop up market?” a reference to the Dekalb market in Brooklyn where he sold his first sandwich.
“Why did I have to have all my friends supporting me and all these things that you are allowing and I am working towards now being taken away from me?” he said, including his business partner and a puppy.
But, in the midst of struggle and on MDK’s first anniversary, an entirely new and unexpected story started to emerge from the mess.
“My friend Sydney Lowe, we had a very inspirational conversation and were speaking about making a major life decision.”
“She was born and raised in New York. She knew of some opportunities out in Los Angeles, but She didn’t know anyone there. So she took some baby steps, rubbed some elbows got to know some people. She came back to New York and sat at my counter for several hours and we were just talking about what she wants to do. We had customers that came in and we were talking about her move to LA and whether she was going to do it or not.”
“As we continue to talk, Lowe’s language started to change, it wasn’t just, ‘I am thinking about moving to L.A… it was: ‘I am moving to L.A.'”
“At that moment, I stopped her and I said, ‘do you know what you just said?’
“You are embracing that you are about to go to LA. Her quote, which is what was inspirational to her, helped solidify and confirm that she was about to go out and do something she’s never done before.”
He asked her to write the quote on the counter. She did, and now the half-finished counter that once served as a painful reminder is the pride of MDK, covered with wisdom and inspirational comments of all kinds.
“The counter is curated now, not anyone can sign it. Like a tattoo – not anyone can just give you a tattoo or a piercing.”
“People need to share their blessings. Kind of like you coming here and visiting me, I think it is very important for me to share my blessings, I think it is the code to life, sharing these intimate and inspirational quotes with each other.”
Doing so helps us us feel more connected, more like family.
“That’s how I feel when I leave my grandmother’s house,” Johnson said.
And now he’s on a mission to recreate that feeling whenever a person or a group steps inside his humble work home.
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