On March 20, for $3.3 million, Tracey and Cheri Syphax of Phax Entertainment Group, LLC bought the restaurant from its founder, a Black woman, to continue Black ownership in the area – an area which is home to a variety of Chinese, Ethiopian, Mediterranean, and Vietnamese restaurants.
Founded in 2017 by entrepreneur Saba Tedla, Booker’s Restaurant & Bar at 5021-5023 Baltimore Ave. is the destination for city dwellers looking for an authentic Mississippi meal.
Baltimore Avenue, a major east-west thoroughfare in Philadelphia, is known for its diverse array of restaurants, cafes, and shops, as well as for its active street life and community events. Some notable landmarks along Baltimore Avenue include the Gold Standard Cafe, Dock Street Brewery, Clark Park, and the University of Pennsylvania.
The restaurant is dedicated to Booker Wright, a Black waiter from Greenwood, Miss. in the 1960s who worked in a whites-only restaurant during the Civil Rights Movement. Wright was killed by a Black assassin, according to Wright’s granddaughter, Yvette Johnson, who made a documentary, “Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story” in 2011, believes was a paid hitman.
With the Syphax’s ownership, secured with a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help fund a portion of the purchase, they hope to keep the restaurant’s operations and impact on the community the same as it is.
The only addition the Syphax family told the Business Journal is that they want to capitalize on commuters from the University of Pennsylvania, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and other medical facilities and educational institutions that are nearby in the area, making it a go-to lunch spot for professionals to bring clients and colleagues.
Tracey is an entrepreneur and CEO of a real estate development company, while wife Cheri works for a global medical technology company and is a women’s relationship coach.
“As a 28-year serial entrepreneur and entrepreneurial instructor, I recognize great models and Saba Tedla has built a great model of excellent service, great food in a warm and inviting atmosphere that has made Bookers a staple go-to restaurant in the heart of West Philly,” states Tracey, according to Trenton Journal. “Our purchase of Bookers now opens endless possibilities for this well-known corridor. We are excited to become a member of this thriving up-and-coming neighborhood.”
“Tracey and I are excited to take over a restaurant with such a great reputation and following. I have patronized Saba since Aksum and it is a surreal, full-circle moment to own an establishment that made my transition to Philly feel like home,” Cheri added. “We will keep the menu items our regulars have come to know and love, while listening to their needs and desires for something new. We will also create dishes and cocktails that will tickle and delight their palate and look forward to serving them with the same quality and excellence they have come to expect.”