The Ferguson Burger Bar and more


It seemed the obvious idea to a businessman and his MBA wife. Open a business together, one close to home, where they could spend time working in each other’s company.

They found it. A burger bar that was struggling to stay afloat but one with potential to grow fast.

They took ownership on 12 days ago. Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot dead by a police officer the very next day just round the corner from The Ferguson Burger Bar. Not an auspicious opening.

“I knew him from a baby. He was big even then,” said Kizzie Davis. “His mother came here on the third day. She knew we were opening and wanted to show her support but she didn’t eat very much.”

It is the only time the grin fades from the face of Mrs Davis, as she juggles telephones and change, calling orders to the busy kitchen and clearing tables.

Business slumped for those first traumatic days. The road outside – West Florissant Street – was shut down by police as demonstrations turned violent and teargas filled the air.

She and her husband – who runs a real estate business and a car lot – wondered whether their $35,000 was about to go up in smoke – literally.

“Business went right down so we wondered whether we had done the right thing. It was a lot of our savings,” she said, before breaking off to take an order.

“Do you want cheese on your fries? Sauce on your wings?”

I make a mental note to have my wings sauced next time I’m in.

Now the restaurant, kitted out with simple tables and colourful blackboards is booming. It has stayed open while other businesses have shut. Some are boarded up and blackened. A BBQ joint was set alight the night before.

IMG_9185The Ferguson Burger Bar has become an unofficial media centre. The tables fill each evening with journalists filing or recharging phones.

A TV tuned to CNN shows Anderson Cooper broadcasting yards across the road, as police close in with armoured cars.

Protesters drop in for a bag of “chicken wingettes” before returning to the fray.

Orders backed up badly the night before. I waited an hour and ten minutes for my Double Ranch Burger, anxiously keeping an eye out of the window in case I missed the story.

It arrived just in time. The outside of the burger was perfectly textured – grilled until it was crisp and just chewy enough. The sharpness of the blue cheese was offset by smoky bacon and a dollop of barbecue sauce.

A slice of lettuce did what it was supposed to do and made me feel better about myself.

There was a flurry beyond the window as I finished. Journalists dashed out, while protesters rushed in.

Mrs Davis’s husband Charles dropped his friendly patter (“Please be patient, this is all made to order – the food will tapdance on your tastebuds”) and went for the entrance. “I don’t want people running in here,” he shouted, locking the door.

Tear gas and blood followed. Running battles were fought yards from the glass frontage.

Mr and Mrs Davis were up at 5am the next day to restock.

Their secret has been to overhaul the menu and cut prices. The burgers are made in-house, said Mrs Davis, little more than beef and seasoning.

“Most of the people coming here are local,” she said. “Even after all this finishes we think they’ll keep coming back.”

She grew up in the neighbourhood and paints a different picture to the down-at-heel image portrayed in much of the reporting.

Unemployment has eased recently and businesses have moved to the area. A new shopping mall opened up the road.

Mrs Davis has her own plans. She’s setting up a home help business, offering cleaning, cooking and the like. In line with their other businesses it will be in Ferguson, employing locals.

“We just can’t believe this is happening here. We put on the television and it looks like somewhere else. This doesn’t happen here,” she said.

That’s where her husband was while we chatted – on television.

“He’s off all day doing interviews while I’m working here,” she said, a broad smile filling her face. “He’s done all the shows.”

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s