Undefeated, undaunted, undeterred and open for business
“When I got hurt at work and I needed something to do, my son convinced me to do [the catering] for a weekend and told me that I should pursue it. He did my social media and just put it on Facebook,” said Wendy Puckett about how “Wendy’s House of Soul” came to be in North Minneapolis two years ago. It resulted in an overwhelming response from the community, who seemed to really take to Wendy’s new “SOULROLL.”
Puckett has been in the news lately as a result of being randomly shot in the face with a pellet gun on November 22 as she was leaving her business on Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis. She wound up with a pellet lodged below her eye that required surgery to remove. The random meanness and capriciousness of the crime, along with her popularity, drew a few media to tell Puckett’s story.
She was forced to close down her House of Soul temporarily as she nursed her injury and sought to recover from the psychological and physical wounds. But the resilient Puckett, undaunted and undeterred, is now open again for business.
Since reopening, Puckett has received an increase in catering orders. The outpouring of support from the community is welcome. “I’m very grateful for every prayer, phone call, flower tweet, text, Instagram message, hug in the street, peace sign, all of that,” said Puckett. “The support has been wonderful.” She asks that friends, patrons and supporters “continue to pray and support in any way, whether it’s coming in to try the food or spreading the word by sharing my posts.”
Puckett had over 20 years of experience in bartending and catering before she started a business of her own, known for her signature “SOULROLL.” “What made me create the SOULROLL? My sons didn’t like to eat vegetables but they liked the egg rolls, so I used to fool them and put all the stuff inside the roll. They would eat it.”
Her clever culinary strategy and mother wit has manifested into a successful business venture. Wendy’s House of Soul is nestled inside of a neighborhood grocery store on the North Side of Minneapolis. She says the neighborliness of the location and her customers makes her feel like she is “part of a village.”
Puckett is, however, an original Southsider. “All my memories were created at 42nd and Park in Minneapolis,” she said. She credits her grandmother as being the inspiration for her business.
Last Saturday the restaurant was busy with a diverse crowd of patrons standing in long lines waiting to place an order. The majority of customers ordered the famous, freshly made “SOULROLL,” some choosing to wash it down with red Kool-Aid. The caramel cake, which Puckett calls a “specialty dessert,” was a hot commodity as well and sold out before the lunch hour.
According to Puckett, running a business requires “dedication, commitment and perseverance and believing in yourself.” What kept her motivated after her unfortunate injury was her grandchildren and wanting to serve as a positive example for them. Despite their youth, Puckett said, “My grandchildren really like to cook.”
Puckett said she wants “those coming up behind us to know they can do this,” explaining why she has persevered despite adversity. “We’re not going anywhere. You can either accept it, be a part of the movement, or keep it moving because we are gonna keep soulin.”
In the interest of full disclosure, the MSR is quite familiar with Pucketts’ culinary skills and work ethic through Sister Spokesman. “I used to be one of the event coordinators,” she said. “I was there for seven years. I stepped out on faith with Sister Spokesman. Ms. Tracey [Williams-Dillard] believed in me and gave me an opportunity to network with other women that look like me.
“We need to continue to have something like Sister Spokesman so that it gives people a foundation to step out on faith and provides a warm and loving environment,” Puckett said.
The MSR encourages community members to support Wendy’s House of Soul by grabbing a SOULROLL or anything else from her menu, or just stopping by to say hello.
At Wendy’s House of Soul customers can dine in, take out, or have an order delivered. Hours of operation: Tuesday-Saturday, 11 am to 7 pm, closed Sunday & Monday. *Note: Catering is available seven days a week. Located at 1021 West Broadway Ave N., Minneapolis. Visit the website: www.youvebeensouled.com.