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For West Louisville Entrepreneurs, A Near-Death Experience Gave Life To A Business

Jamerica English and Jemond Groves
Jamerica English and Jemond Groves

Jemond Groves saw the gun and then felt the bullet tear into his torso.

What happened next isn't so clear.

"They say he also stabbed me," Groves says.

The wounds led to massive blood loss. In the hospital, he slipped in and out of consciousness. Doctors predicted he'd face complications the rest of his life.

Groves is still recovering nearly four months later. He's better off than anticipated, but he's still haunted by nightmares. Pops and bangs can stir memories of the robbery that nearly took his life.

Looking back, Groves is still unsure why the man in the red hat on a dark street in West Louisville squeezed the trigger.

"It set me back a few different ways," he says.

But in the pain and confusion, he’s also found a clear vision for the future.

Groves says he's experienced the stereotype people are often quick to hang over West Louisville, that it's dangerous and plagued with crime. But instead of accepting that, he wants to break it.

It’s an unconventional idea, perhaps, but Groves is optimistic the catering company he and his wife, Jamerica English Groves, are working to get off the ground will have a big impact for the neighborhood in which they live.

The business, Lollie’s Kitchen, began in the Groves’ kitchen in West Louisville. The jerk chicken and curry goat recipes of Jamerica’s Jamaican heritage were popular with family and friends and neighbors, and the demand quickly outgrew the space in their kitchen.

So the family looked to Chef Space, a kitchen incubator program housed in the former Jay's Cafeteria in Russell. It's aim is to help food-focused entrepreneurs turn their ideas into profitable productions.

For a fee, the program provides chefs with resources like blenders, pots and ovens they may not be able to afford on their own, says Chris Lavenson, its president.

More than 20 groups are working in Chef Space, which can accommodate up to 50. They're making jams, jellies, pastries and jerk chicken, which they showed off during an open house Monday.

The incubator is helping entrepreneurial residents, but it's also setting up a system that could bring more food options to western Louisville, Lavenson says.

"Our goal is to create healthy food for the community and create jobs through food entrepreneurship," he says.

The Groves recognize West Louisville needs more food options, and they're working to meet the need. But both say the area also needs more success stories.

They're also working on that. And when they get it, they say, they'll stick around the neighborhood — maybe roll out a fleet of food trucks or even set roots down in a brick-and-mortar establishment.

"We want people to know you can live down here and be successful," Jamerica says. "We're putting something back in the community."

Jemond says he wants to show people success can come without crime.

"You can do it the right way, legitimately," he says. "This is just the start of it, we're not stopping."

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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