Los Angeles, CA–If you drive too fast down 48th street, you might miss the red building nestled next to a small liquor store near Leimert Park in Los Angeles. Natives of the area, however, know exactly where Phat Daddy’s is when they want an authentic L.A burger.
Owned by Timesha Phillips, this Black woman is not only a business owner, she also drives buses for METRO.
“It’s interesting, with all the different types of people,” says Meme. “Growing up in L.A, you are kind of automatically used to dealing with different types of people with different backgrounds,” she explained when asked how she likes driving buses for METRO.
Known by friends and family as Meme, she says that being financially stable is her main concern, especially living in California. But her overall focus is owning and expanding her business.
“I’m always in survival mode from growing up disadvantaged and all the other things that come with being us growing up in L.A. I grew up fast, by choice. So, I am constantly pushing myself to see what I can do. That’s just it, I do what I have to do.”
For many Black people growing up in L.A, doing what you have to do is our learned trauma response, especially Black women. Despite any turmoil happening to or around us, we always learn to pick up the pieces, no matter how traumatic and fractured the experience.
“My husband got murdered last year, so I just do stuff to keep my mind occupied and not just idling on all the other negativity around me,” said Meme.
Even with tragic events such as the death of her husband, Meme has kept the focus on her affairs and envisioning ways to expand in her business. She is grieving, but through this process, she has become one of the small business owners who have been able to maintain a thriving business during a global pandemic.
The mandatory closures and lockdowns to curb the spread of the coronavirus saw African-American and minority businesses hit the hardest. It is estimated that African-American business activity fell by 41% during the first two months of the pandemic.
Food delivery services have been a saving grace for Phat Daddy’s during the coronavirus pandemic, along with customer loyalty. Another aspect that has worked in Phat Daddy’s favor, is the design of the building, which is not sustainable to host dine-in. So, orders are mainly take out.
“Without community support I would not have been able to make it. Even if no one walks through the door, online is going all day. So that was a major thing outside of the locals coming in,” Meme detailed. “They appreciate me being here because I grew up around here.”
Like a true hustler and L.A native, Meme has always been involved in various degrees of business. From selling clothes, to selling burgers, once her mind is locked on a goal, she’s all in. Her desires to open a burger spot came through her asking herself, what is a product that people constantly need?
She soon realized that food was the industry she needed to be in.
“Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like gasoline, people need it,” Meme realized.
She would often pass by this vacant, red building as she traveled through the neighborhood. Meme got in contact with the owners and would talk with them often about her business plans. Nothing worth having in life comes easy and obtaining the space to operate Phat Daddy’s really came through Meme’s tenacity.
“I came and checked on the building everyday until they started to take me serious. They were like, this girl must really want this building. I just did it. I did not know if it was going to work, or if people were going to buy food from me,” Meme expressed. “And they love it. The community appreciates me.”
To receive so much community support is fulfilling for Meme because she did not know if she would still be in business six months from when she started. It’s hard not to appreciate a business that reminds you of grabbing a quick bite to eat from your sister or grandmother’s kitchen. Phat Daddy’s is a very family oriented business, with member’s of Meme’s family working behind the counter from her mother, to her younger cousins and uncle.
Meme says working with her mother is a beautiful thing because who better than having your mother on the job? Her mother understands her as a person and Meme know’s she can trust her mothers cooking because she’s the one who taught her how to cook.
“I have people who depend on me when their kids get out of school and they are at work. I definitely could not have survived the pandemic without my community standing behind me during this time.”
The rose that grew from concrete is a theme that Meme says resonates with her deeply. She is proud of herself for pushing through her past and the lifestyles that she once knew, because so many of her peers were not as fortunate. Although there are still battles Meme faces daily, she feels that she is a different woman now, who is in a different space to handle life’s ups and downs. She is driven daily because she wants more for herself than what she seen growing up in L.A.
“We grow everyday. Mentally, I just feel like I am getting better than the day before. I know what I could be doing and I know what I don’t want,” said Meme. “I just want to be different and when I have kids one day, I want them to look at me and know they can do anything if they put their mind to it–even if they are in circumstances where they feel they can’t win.”
Meme wants not only her kids, but the people in her community to know that you really can achieve greatness.
You just have to stay focused and do what you have to do.
Visit Phat Daddy’s:
2312 w 48th st. Los Angeles, CA
Monday: 12:00 PM – 6:30 PM Tuesday: 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM Wednesday: 11:00