When Irma Dee’s opened for business Monday, it became the only sit-down restaurant in operation in Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood.
“My grandma, she always had a place for people to come down and enjoy themselves. I said ‘We’ve got the space, so why not?’ ” said Chauncey Turner, co-owner of Irma Dee’s soul food restaurant and grandson of the late restaurateur Irma Turner.
Turner has partnered with Antonio Benedict who formerly ran Sweet T’s on Newburg Road. They named the new restaurant after Turner’s grandmother and Benedict’s mother Dee Benedict. They’ve also recruited family members to help cook and serve the recipes the two women were known for.
“They saw the dream, and they would not let it die,” said Irma’s daughter, Sheila Turner. “Her motto was ‘Let your family be part of our family.’ ”
Irma Dee’s menu includes fried chicken wings, burgers, pig’s feet, codfish, meatloaf, rib-eye steak, collard greens, macaroni and cheese and mashed potatoes. Prices range from $3.49 for six wings to $11.99 for chitterlings with two sides. The restaurant also will serve breakfast.
Chauncey Turner said they wanted the restaurant to be affordable for nearby residents.
“We wanted our family to have somewhere where they could work, the ones that’s not working,” he said. And “we want people to come. The more people come, you still making money even though your price is lower.”
Turner said it took him and Benedict more than two years to open Irma Dee’s at 1213 S. 28th St.
They already owned the building and were using it as storage for their other businesses, including a barbershop, beauty shop and retail store, all in Parkland. After planning to open the restaurant, the pair decided to renovate the 28th Street building, but they didn’t want to take out a business loan. Instead, they started selling homes that they’d rented out; the profits from that went toward the renovations.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday, Louisville Metro Councilwoman Jessica Green said having grown up on fried bologna sandwiches at Irma’s Cafe, she was excited to bring her children to Irma Dee’s. She added that the opening of the sit-down restaurant would be “transformative” for the Parkland neighborhood.
“We hope you are here to stay,” she said.
Residents recently finished creating a neighborhood plan that will allow the city to start deploying funds for beautification efforts and continue to support community programming in Parkland, which is bound by South 26th Street, West Broadway, South 34th Street and Woodland Avenue, Green said. One Love Louisville recently started an ambassador program in the neighborhood, aimed at violence prevention.
“Parkland struggles,” Green said, “but Parkland is on the rise.”
Parkland used to be a thriving neighborhood and was the epicenter for civil rights demonstrations in Louisville in the 1960s, said Rev. Charles Elliott of King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church. Elliott said he was excited to see a new business open in the area.
“I’m gonna make sure I eat here every day,” he said.
Irma Dee’s hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.