Calvin Andrews, owner of Lena’s Soul Food Cafe, opened his first location on High Street in East Oakland in February 2013 and recently opened a second location on Foothill and 64th Avenue in February 2017. “We have the best soul food in town,” says Calvin. Between the two locations Lena’s employs 40 people.

Lena’s is named after Calvin’s mother, who taught Calvin and his four older siblings to cook. “Eating at restaurants, I always felt like I could do it better. I really wanted to own a restaurant to share the cooking I grew up on,” explains Calvin.

“I opened my first restaurant venture with a loan from Main Street Launch, and without that loan I could have never gotten open,” remembers Calvin. “I needed to finish the build out, purchase some equipment, and I also used the loan for some working capital. Most folks don’t just have that kind of money laying around, so the loan was really important for me to get started.”

Calvin considers his first attempt at business to be a failure, but he turned those challenges into big successes. “I needed to have that experience,” he reflects. “Now I’m smarter and more conscious, and that experience has helped me make better choices with my current businesses.”

“Working with Main Street Launch was better than I could have expected. It wasn’t formal or bank-like. They worked with me to restructure my first loan when my business was going through a tough time. It made me more comfortable that it was a partnership, a service for the community,” remembers Calvin.

Calvin offers advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: “Consult with experts and ask them for resources. At Main Street Launch, I keep coming back for help, to get connected with restaurant consultants, and to take advantage of other resources available for my business. It has made a big difference in helping me become successful.”

Lena’s Soul Food Cafe can provide any service you may need. You can grab a quick dinner to go from their High Street location, have a nice dinner with your family at the 64th Avenue location, or host a private dinner in their banquet room or on their patio. Lena’s is a truly versatile restaurant, offering customized services to Oakland’s community. Click here to see their menu and make your reservations.