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February 27, 2023 | Shannon Smith

100Knoxville | Taffany Holloway’s cooking will fill your belly and your soul

Her food is so good, people used to buy it straight out of her car.

No one can cook up a salmon patty, meatloaf, or oxtails like Taffany Holloway can.

Her food is so good, people used to buy it straight out of her car.

“I’ve seen how much joy it gave to people because they pulled up on the side of the road, didn’t know us from anywhere, and would say ‘the food is so good,’” said Holloway. “And the feeling that I got from that is really what inspired me to please people.”

Holloway is the owner of Olive Street Soulful, a Knoxville restaurant specializing in soul food and southern classics.

“At first I thought, we’re not going to be able to do this. People are not going to want to buy our food,” she said. “But they did, and they started wanting more and more and more.”

As she and her boyfriends’ combined cooking started to gain popularity, selling from her car was no longer going to cut it. Holloway found the perfect storefront on Olive Street in Knoxville’s Parkridge community, and instantly the landlord saw something in her.

“He said ‘when I talk to you guys, I just feel something special. I want to give you the keys now,’” she said.

And they got to cooking.

“I want my food to not only fill your belly but also fill your soul,” said Holloway. She did that with ribs, veggie burgers, baked spaghetti, and everything in between.

“My meatloaf made it to the newspaper a couple of times,” she said.

People didn’t just come for the food. They came for Holloway. But she knew she couldn’t run a business without more help. “It takes a village to be connected with the right people,” she said.

She found that village within the 100Knoxville program. It’s an initiative to help double the revenue of local Black-owned businesses through the investment of time, talent, and access to social, political, and financial capital. 100Knoxville’s goal is to help Black-owned businesses in Knoxville grow by $10,000,000 in five years.

“I loved the mentorship and getting to understand the business side,” said Holloway. “I was just a cook. I didn’t know the paperwork.”

The 100Knoxville program is a five-week session of lessons for each cohort, but Holloway said what she learned will last a lifetime.

“Keep going. Keep striving. Keep giving back to the community, and don’t give up. That’s what I got from it,” she said.

Holloway also credits some of her mentors for helping her look to the next chapter of her business. Unfortunately after two years, her landlord sold the building her restaurant was in, and she’s since had to close.

“It just shut down my spirit for a quick second, but then I went and did a catering job. I’m transitioning and trying to get started in catering and maybe a food truck,” said Holloway.

She’ll take the advice of her mentors and see what’s next. Because this won’t be the end of Olive Street Soulful.

“I like to see the smiles and the stories about how the food made them feel or brought back old memories,” said Holloway. “It’s what brought me back to cooking.”

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