Connie's Chicken and Waffles
Three years after opening at Lexington Market, Connie's Chicken and and Waffles is on a tear, with brothers Shawn and Khari Parker now operating two more spots in Baltimore and another in Delaware.
The first location on downtown's Westside taught the brothers about working in the food industry and collaboration, says Khari. Neither he, a veteran of the information technology, nor Shawn, a career construction pro, had run a restaurant before.
Their second, at Charles Plaza, was a chance to stay open beyond public market hours. The third, at Wilmington, Delaware's DECO Food Hall, has taught them about varying customer tastes in another market, and let them get their name out across state lines. And the fourth, at the newly renovated Broadway Market in Fells Point, "puts us down in the heart of a tourist area," says Khari.
The Parkers say they pride themselves on local hiring and empowering employees, teaching them job skills or asking them to consider their career ambitions. It's a first gig for many teenage employees, says Shawn; others are grown adults re-entering the workforce after prolonged unemployment. "It's nice to see them grow within the job."
With a growing, successful chain, they're now spearheading something bigger: a first-of-its-kind food hall for West Baltimore. The Parkers are assembling a new roster of tenants for a market at Walbrook Mill, a former lumber yard recently converted into dozens of apartments, offices and other retail on North Avenue. The $20 million project sits around the corner from Coppin State University, where Shawn graduated with his bachelor's degree about a decade ago.
"It's gonna be something amazing and transformative for the neighborhood, I believe, because now folks have a central place to meet and hang out," he says. "It's gonna be unprecedented, if you ask me."