By GREG STONE, Charleston Gazette-Mail
CHARLESTON, Virginia (AP) – Octavia Cordon thought she had seen all of her husband Cam’s dreams of independence.
He had plenty of ideas. One was to buy an RV, dump it, and convert it into a food truck. It did not work.
Then came the henhouse.
âI saw this thing and thought, ‘Pack your s —‘,â she said on Tuesday. “You’re going to live in this thing!” It was the last straw. I really had to see the work in progress to see what he was seeing. “
Over a year ago, in the COVID-19 doldrums, Cameron, two generous friends and a wayward artist all came together to create Phat Daddy’s physical factory on Da Tracks, which emerged from the belly of the fine dining Tuesday on a glorious, so windy, opening day.
âOh my god, 12 noon or 12:30 pm, during lunch it was crazy,â Octavia said as six people lined up around 4:00 pm. The music was pumped up and the people were happy.
Getting to Tuesday, the couple never gave up. They ran a moving company, Walk by Faith. Cameron has cooked all over town, including at John and Keeley Steele’s Bluegrass Kitchen and Tricky Fish. The Steeles were there on Tuesday.
Cameron Cordon’s dream had always been to run his own establishment. 31 years ago, while living in Harlem, New York, Shanequa Smith remembers talking to Cameron on a street corner of his dreams. She was there too on Tuesday, part of a contingent of black New Yorkers – friends and relatives – who moved to Charleston about 20 years ago, shortly after 9/11. The Cordons are part of this diaspora.
âIt’s her baby,â Smith said. âYou could see the tenacity. It is finally here.
Fried whiting sandwiches, steak sandwiches, pulled pork, pulled chicken, beef brisket and the awesome Phat Daddy Dog – a quarter pound beef hot dog with homemade chili and white cheddar cheese – all emerged from the outdoor grill to perfection. This is not the scope of the offers.
This is no dream place, 4800 Railroad Ave. The avenue is just an alley separating Phat Daddy’s from the railway line. The driveway intersects at one end with Watts Street, passes behind some buildings, and emerges just beyond Denver’s Depot at Maryland Avenue.
The Cordons business began when landowner John Bullock offered the co-op to Cameron. He smiles. Then he worked. The rent was cheap.
With a massive boost from electrician Billy Dyess, general handyman Scott Lanham, and street artist Andy King – the unlikely quartet began hauling pieces of tin and the like from the adjacent Bullock junkyard. Soon, with some wood expense for a new patio, the place looked like something.
King’s contribution to copyrighted animated characters may have passed the legal stage, but so far no one from Fox has stepped forward to demand a well-made face cover from him. Hank Hill. The black, red and yellow pattern of the sheet stands out.
Octavia estimates the couple have around $ 20,000 in the business. This is a small start-up cost, almost entirely in lumber and kitchen equipment. For a modest installation, the kitchen implements tilt. Cameron is surrounded by a smokehouse, a deep fryer and two flat metal grates. This is its external operation. It can be covered in bad weather. In the chicken coop, a grill and fryer run on console power, converted from electricity to gas by Dyess.
As for Mountain State’s unlikely migration, Ward 6 Councilor Deanna McKinney said she knew she had an aunt in Wheeling. Additionally, she said she believed West Virginia might be the tonic for the crazy atmosphere in New York City after 9/11. Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. Alas, she says, Charleston has shrunk, but it hasn’t kept quite the same friendly face. “It got rougher.”
McKinney said she hopes companies like Phat Daddy’s spark the start of a black-owned business movement. âIt gives jobs to people like us,â she said.
Octavia’s nephew, Jesus Davis, 22, sat on one of the wooden benches lining the wooden bridge on Tuesday, gulping down macaroni and cheese, cabbage and fried shrimp.
âI was living with them,â Davis said. “They really know how to cook.” Davis said he was there on the fateful day of the Co-op Offering. “I helped them get him from the junkyard here.”
As for the man who finally saw his dream come true, Cameron Cordon has remained too busy to talk much.
âI’m just happy we’re where we are now,â he said. âIt took enough time. This is not where we want to be. But a lot
people have come forward to show their support.
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