Every business comes with challenges. The owners of one in downtown Erie signed a lease just months before COVID-19 changed everything. They forged ahead and have been feeding customers ever since.

Food is fuel at this family business, Chippers Seafood and Southern Fusion, located along State Street in downtown Erie.

Vickie Jones also works to serve up more than just smiles. She's a fry cook, and tasked with making side dishes. She is also the co-owner.

Vickie opened Chippers with her husband of 48 years, Curtis Jones Senior. It's been his dream.

He wanted an African-American inspired restaurant in downtown Erie with a diverse menu.

"Which included seafood, different types of seafood and fishes along with soul food menu as well," said Curtis. 

There's sandwiches, loaded waffles, appetizers, sides and desserts. They even make bubble tea and provide all non-alcoholic drinks.

But Curtis's favorite, the boil bags. Vickie's pick: soul bowls, especially the mac n cheese with fried chicken, one she allowed Eva Mastromatteo to enjoy.

Vickie's faith is always in focus at the business, and so is her family. She and her husband are parents to 14 children nine boys and five girls who have provided them inspiration as they started this venture right before a global pandemic.

"When we opened up the restaurant they were very essential and very inspirational and positive," said Curtis. 

You'll see some of them working at the front of the family business. While others have added their touch elsewhere at the restaurant.

The business is growing. The current restaurant has an expansion that allows for additional seating, a stage for live entertainment and also a time to reflect on African American history in the city of Erie.

A timeline from the late 1800's until current times stretches across a wall in the expanded area.

It was compiled by Mr. Jones. The mural serves as a reminder of making strides in life. He says serving up food for the soul has been worth it.