Throughout the chaos of 2020, many of us have found comfort and joy in simple things, such as food.
As luck would have it, Sacramento has dozens of culinary gems that are dishing out joy in to-go containers. One restaurant, Louisiana Heaven, is serving up authentic Southern cuisine to the weary, over-Zoomed masses. This black-owned restaurant located on Valley Hi Drive in South Sacramento, is owned by Lashunda Cormier, a 12- year veteran of the restaurant business. While Cormier has been successful, Louisiana Heaven, like most Black-owned businesses, has faced its challenges.
In 2008, when the restaurant first opened its doors in Elk Grove, Lashunda wanted her customers to have more than a meal; she wanted to provide them a dining experience, complete with good food and live entertainment. Inspired by her mother and grandmother, Lashunda translated her passion for cooking, and her family’s roots – from the small town of Jennings, deep in the Bayous of Louisiana – into a flavorful menu of eatable decadence.
Though Louisiana Heaven has been in business for over 12 years, the restaurant, like most small businesses in general, and Black-owned small businesses in particular, has faced systemic challenges. After its first two years of operation, Louisiana Heaven closed its doors in 2010. One of the reasons, Cormier noted, was because of the discrimination her South Sacramento customers experienced when they came to her restaurant in the City of Elk Grove.
There was ”a lot of racism in the city” Lashunda explained, and ”a lot of customers got pulled over when they came into Elk Grove.” This impacted Louisiana Heaven’s business because ”people were scared of the police” she concluded. After two years, Lashunda decided to pivot and retool her business model. The shift allowed Louisiana Heavens’ culinary masterpieces to be provided to customers directly at festivals, expos and catered events.
After almost a decade of success on the festival circuit, customer demand for Louisiana Heaven to return to a brick and mortar restaurant was strong. Lashunda admits that she was hesitant to return to a physical location, but the calls from her community were strong. With their support, she reopened on Valley Hi Drive on July 20, 2019. This new location gave her loyal customer base a place in their own neighborhood to enjoy Louisiana Heaven’s comforting soul food.
Then came COVID-19.
Once again, Louisiana Heaven had to pivot. While delivery apps helped keep the food in customers hands, some of the companies only offered free or reduced services to restaurants temporarily, before reinstating their regular fees. In add ition, despite programs that were touted to help small businesses like Louisiana Heaven, Lashunda was unable to fully access the resources she needed to help weather the economic downturn that emerged after state and local shelter in place orders.
“When I did get a reply,” Lashunda said of government programs, they said that “the funds were exhausted.”
Fortunately, Lashunda found support from the Black Small Business Association of California’s (BSBA) Technical Assistance Program (TAP). A partnership between BSBA and the City of Sacramento, TAP offers Black-owned small businesses the tools they need to survive during COVID-19, including seminars on business planning and organizational structure, social media marketing, legal compliance, and branding. Cormier said that she is participating in TAP to learn how to expand her outreach to the community and find new ways to market Louisiana Heaven.
With the help of her family, who work at the restaurant while she works a 9 to 5 job, and her customers, who continue to patronize Louisiana Heaven despite the pandemic, Lashunda Cormier, is making ends meet. With the resources provided by BSBA and TAP, Louisiana Heaven, and Lashunda’s story as a Black entrepreneur, will continue to be a bright spot in what has been a devastating year for too many Black-owned businesses in Sacramento.
To place orders at Louisiana Heaven, call (916) 689-4800 or visit https://www.louisianaheaven.com
For more information about BSBA’s Technical Assistance Program, please contact BSBA at or (916) 573 -0677 or email@example.com.