Sylvia Woods, the “Queen of Soulfood,” is the founder and owner of the world famous Sylvia’s Restaurant, located in the historical village of Harlem, since 1962. Sylvia, young and determined received her beautician license at night while attending junior High School during the day.
Sylvia opened the first farmhouse salon in her hometown of Hemingway, South Carolina. Sylvia, born and raised on her mother’s South Carolina farm had dreams at a very young age of marrying her childhood sweet heart Herbert, (whom she meet when she was eleven and he was twelve, while picking beans after school), and of one day trading in the cotton fields for the bright lights of New York City.
In 1944, Sylvia married Herbert and started her journey towards a brighter future. Harlem called, and Sylvia answered, as she became a waitress at Johnson’s luncheonette. In 1962, after several years of dedicated service to her employer, Mr. Johnson recognized Sylvia’s entrepreneurial spirit and sold her the luncheonette. Julia Pressley, Sylvia’s mother, whom was a farmer and mid-wife, mortgaged her farm to loan her the money for the purchase.
The then small luncheonette consisted of a counter and a few booths, has now flourished into a family owned enterprise which consist of: Sylvia’s Restaurant in Harlem, Sylvia’s Also, a full-service catering hall, Sylvia’s Catering Corp., a nation-wide line of Sylvia’s Food Products, two deliciously amazing cookbooks, and ATOC, Inc., a real estate firm.
Sylvia’s unwavering vision, hard work, and determination was shared by her late husband Herbert Woods, and was instilled in their four children, Van, Bedelia, Kenneth, and Crizette, who together with their children manage this family enterprise. To-date there are three generations of the Woods family working tirelessly, to ensure that their familyÕs business continues to make strides over the next forty-three years.
In keeping with the strong family values and support system that empowered Sylvia, in 2001, The Woods family created the Sylvia and Herbert Woods Scholarship Endowment Foundation. The SHWF disburses 4-year partial scholarships to children of and around the Harlem community. Sylvia’s philosophy has always been “each one teach, teach one and remember to love and be kind, and the response you receive in return will be priceless.
Sylvia Woods has been lavished with numerous awards and accolades from her peers, community leaders, politicians, and the business world at large. In recognition of forty years in business, on August 1, 2001 Sylvia rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
Sylvia Woods is also the proud recipient of several legacy awards included the Merit Award from Mayor Bloomberg, of New York City, numerous declarations and citations from political figures ranging from President William Jefferson Clinton to Governor Pataki, and an special invitation to the Clintons last Christmas at the White House.
Sylvia has also been featured on several dozen-television shows across the world, including Good Morning America, The Today Show, The BBC Network, Japan T.V., and The Food Net-Work. Print media has also been a fan of Sylvia garnering her with write-ups in such publications as: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Elle Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, Newsweek, and many more.