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New Hampton restaurant opens kitchen for first time to cook free Thanksgiving meals

The restaurant's opening had originally been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

HAMPTON, Va. — Despite a long journey, the kitchen inside 221 East Mellen Street in the Phoebus neighborhood of Hampton is finally being used.

It's the new location for "Charlotte's: A Simply Panache Cafeteria," a cafeteria-styled restaurant from the 'Simply Panache' brand.

The Hampton Roads company owns several Hampton-based businesses, including the popular "Mango Mangeaux: A Simply Panache Bistro," and produces its well-known "Mango Preserves." The group has appeared on the television show Shark Tank and other national media outlets. 

“It is not easy in the middle of a pandemic," Lakesha Brown-Renfro, one of the three women that make up Simply Panache said. "We had already started before everything hit in March, we’d been building the space. It was important to finish it.”

Thursday, the restaurant had its soft opening by cooking traditional Thanksgiving food that fed up to 500 people and distributed them to the community for free.

“All of these things keep us active in the community, it’s important to end 2020 on a high note," Brown-Renfro said. 

The meals were distributed between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and made available to anyone, through anyway.

"There are seniors in our community that don’t have transportation," Bishop Gail Roberts House said, Pastor for Open Door Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship who was picking up meals for other elderly families. 

“I thought it was something, they have a heart for the community and a heart for doing this," Roberts House said.

The restaurant is expected to open this weekend with limited capacity seating.

“This is us starting off right, we’re a community-based business, a community brand so everything we do we think of the community first," Brown-Renfro said.