This story originally appeared on the South Seattle Emerald.
Seattle soul food aficionados can rejoice. Last week’s closure of Jackson’s Catfish Corner in the Rainer Beach/Brighton neighborhood was only temporary. The restaurant known for its savory southern style cuisine could be reopening as soon as next Monday, according to its owner Terrell Jackson.
Jackson spoke to the Emerald Monday in hopes of dispelling the many rumors that circulated after locals discovered the restaurant boarded up on July 28 without any apparent explanation.
Speculation as to why the restaurant closed was rampant both in the community and on social media. The restaurant’s Facebook page was taken down, and customers reported Catfish Corner closed on Yelp.
Theories included Jackson being forcefully pushed out by greedy developers, that he moved his restaurant back to the Central District, and that he was in a jam with the Internal Revenue Service.
None of which were true, according to Jackson, who says the true reasons for the closure were blown out of proportion. Though, he does say he understands the legitimate concerns about a black-owned business in the South End being forced to close as the latest casualty of gentrification.
“Our lease was simply up with our landlord, and we wanted to make sure we had a proper lease in place before going forward. It was just a lack of communication,” Jackson said in a phone interview.
Further fueling the rumor mill was the fact that he left for vacation the day after the restaurant was boarded up by the landlord, without immediately responding to inquiries about the status of Catfish Corner.
According to Jackson, his landlord boarded up the building to secure the property, but the wood planks will soon be coming down.
The 30 year-old restaurant owner says he’s grateful for the concern for his business that arose out of the situation. This included community members donating to a GoFundMe page set up by Jackson’s mother. As of Tuesday afternoon it had raised $1,780.
Additionally, Jackson says local pastors and elected officials reached out to him asking how they could help his business reopen.
“I’m so glad I can patronize them again. I took my family visiting from Montana down there last week and was sorry to see it closed down,” said Faye Lowe, a Rainier Beach resident looking forward to Catfish Corner reopening its doors.
As appreciative as Jackson is of the outpouring of community support, he says more is still needed in the form of financing. He says the building’s current monthly rent is $4,000, a sum he’s been able to pay consistently, but not without struggle.
“I don’t understand with all these banks we have around here, why they aren’t willing to help me. Everywhere I go I get denied,” says a frustrated Jackson.
He describes routinely applying for business loans at “bank after bank,” only to be consistently denied despite having a good credit score.
For Jackson, the chronic rejection is only a setback to be overcome.
“I started this business with $200. We’ve come a long way and are going to continue to come a long way,” he says defiantly.
Catfish Corner was originally founded by Jackson’s grandparents in the late 1970s, and served as a Central District hallmark until coming under new ownership in the early 2000’s.
After Catfish Corner went out of business in 2009 due to rent hikes and tax issues, Jackson reclaimed the business for his family in 2009, hosting pop-up restaurants around town under the banner “Jackson’s Catfish Corner.”
The pop-ups proved so successful that he moved into the restaurant’s current location at 7216 Rainier Ave South in June of 2015.
Jackson says that he is meeting with the building’s landlord later this week to renegotiate the lease moving forward. He hopes to also alleviate any concerns local residents have about the future of his business.
His response when asked how long he intends for Catfish Corner to reside in the area:
“We’re not going anywhere.”
Photo courtesy of Jackson’s Catfish Corner