Advertisement

Vivian’s Soul Food, a Cedar Rapids favorite, has closed




Fried chicken, candied yams and macaroni and cheese from Vivian’s Soul Food, 2925 Williams Pkwy SW, Cedar Rapids. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

Vivian’s Soul Food, a much loved fixture on the Cedar Rapids restaurant scene, has closed. Owners Jerome and Briana Smallwood announced the closure in a post on the restaurant’s Facebook Page signed Team Viv.

It’s been a great run. In the last 6 years we’ve learned so much, made lifetime connections, have seen the lowest lows and the highest highs.

Unfortunately, covid followed by unprecedented times in our economy have brought residual impacts that are worsening with each day that we optimistically attempt to operate.

We are unsure of the exact immediate next steps at this time, but even with the closure of the business we are not deterred from having heavy involvement and influence in our community. We plan to be back in the future, applying all the learnings from this rodeo in the next venture.

The Smallwoods opened Vivian’s in southwest Cedar Rapids in July 2017, naming the restaurant after Jerome’s mother. He credits his mother and grandmother with teaching him how to cook the soul food dishes that became Vivian’s signature items.

“I’m about not cutting corners,” Jerome Smallwood told Little Village in 2020. “There might be an easier way, or a faster way, but that isn’t always the right way.”

Vivian’s quickly established a reputation for not just great food, but friendly and efficient service. Business was so good in the years before the pandemic, the restaurant moved to a larger location in January 2020. Three months later, the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Iowa.

Vivian’s got some national attention in September 2021, when the Smallwoods were featured on Andrew Zimmern’s Discovery+ show, Family Dinner. Zimmern, a renowned chef and food writer, was full of praise for the ribs and jerk chicken Jerome made.

“I don’t like to use the ‘perfect’ very often, but those look really– I mean, they’re just perfect,” he said about the ribs as they were being prepared.

Little Village readers agreed with Zimmern. They voted Vivian’s “Best Soul Food Restaurant” every year since LV began its the Best of the CRANDIC competition in 2019, including 2022.

Writing in Bread and Butter, LV’s annual dining guide, Celine Robins selected Vivian’s as one of the “Restaurants that feel like home.”

Vivian’s Soul Food serves Southern comfort classics like barbecue short ribs, baked mac and cheese, fried okra, catfish and more, all cooked with such genuine care and attention that you feel like a visitor in the chef’s own home … The service is warm and casual, and the jewel-toned interior proudly bears artwork of some of the Black titans of music history. The mix of soul, R&B and jazz playing softly in the background sets an inviting mood.

But even without the pressures of a global pandemic, the restaurant business is a difficult one to succeed in, no matter how good the food and the service. In an Aug. 2 Facebook post, the Smallwoods wrote“A little bit of transparency for our community is that the industry aint industryin’ (for our non-millennial followers, that means it’s been TOUGH). Our backs are against the wall and we’re going to need to make some tough decisions in the very immediate future. This may mean reduced hours, increased pricing, a complete business model overhaul, or something else.”

They asked their supporters to also “have grace for all our local restaurants.”

“When we say it isn’t easy, we’re not being soft,” the Smallwoods wrote. “… But we’re faithful in our belief that because MLK had a dream, we can live ours — and we’re not going out without a fight.”

Their candor created a surge of support.

“WOW,” they wrote in a post three days later. “We’re quite speechless for the outpouring of love and the amount of people who have come in and shared stories of how VSF comforted them during hard times, aided major celebrations, and just flat out gives some people a place to stroll down memory lane reminiscent of meals their granny’s and great grands use to make.”

But even with that support, the Smallwoods said closing was still a possibility. They made changes to the restaurant’s hours and service in hopes of keeping the doors open. But that hope came to an end on Wednesday.

“Thank you again to our amazing community,” the post announcing the closure concludes. “Please visit our remaining local restaurants often, tip your servers well, and remember smiles are contagious and can change someone’s entire day.”

Jerome and Briana Smallwood of Vivian’s Soul Food in Cedar Rapids — Jav Ducker/Little Village

[gravityform id="17" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper your-village-form_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_17' ><a id='gf_17' class='gform_anchor' ></a><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_17' id='gform_17' class='your-village-form' action='/vivians-soul-food-a-cedar-rapids-favorite-has-closed/#gf_17'> <div class='gform_body'><ul id='gform_fields_17' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id='field_17_7' class='gfield gfield_html gfield_html_formatted gfield_no_follows_desc field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><h3 style="font-weight:800; font-size:34px;">Let's get started</h3> <p style="font-size:18px;">Fill out this form and we'll contact you with information about marketing with Little Village!</p></li><li id='field_17_4' class='gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label gfield_label_before_complex' for='input_17_4_3' ></label><div class='ginput_complex ginput_container no_prefix has_first_name no_middle_name has_last_name no_suffix gf_name_has_2 ginput_container_name gfield_trigger_change' id='input_17_4'> <span id='input_17_4_3_container' class='name_first' > <input type='text' name='input_4.3' id='input_17_4_3' value='' aria-label='First name' tabindex='2' aria-invalid="false" placeholder='First name'/> <label for='input_17_4_3' >First</label> </span> <span id='input_17_4_6_container' class='name_last' > <input type='text' name='input_4.6' id='input_17_4_6' value='' aria-label='Last name' tabindex='4' aria-invalid="false" placeholder='Last name'/> <label for='input_17_4_6' >Last</label> </span> </div></li><li id='field_17_5' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_5' ><span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_17_5' type='text' value='' class='large' tabindex='6' placeholder='Company name' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_17_3' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_3' ><span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_3' id='input_17_3' type='text' value='' class='large' tabindex='7' placeholder='Your email address' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false"/> </div></li><li id='field_17_8' class='gfield gform_validation_container field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_8' >Comments</label><div class='ginput_container'><input name='input_8' id='input_17_8' type='text' value='' /></div><div class='gfield_description'>This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.</div></li> </ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_17' class='gform_button button' value='SUBMIT' tabindex='8' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_17"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_17"]=true; ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_17"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_17"]=true; jQuery("#gform_17").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_ajax' value='form_id=17&amp;title=&amp;description=&amp;tabindex=1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_17' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='17' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_17' value='WyJbXSIsIjlmNzc1YTEyZmZjNmYyODk5Mzk0NDM3ZjRlOGYyZDNmIl0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_17' id='gform_target_page_number_17' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_17' id='gform_source_page_number_17' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_1" name="ak_js" value="233"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_1" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_17' id='gform_ajax_frame_17'>This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.</iframe> <script type='text/javascript'>jQuery(document).ready(function($){gformInitSpinner( 17, 'https://littlevillagemag.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope/images/spinner.gif' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_17').load( function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_17');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_17').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! is_redirect && ! is_confirmation;if(is_form){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').html(form_content.html());if(form_content.hasClass('gform_validation_error')){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').addClass('gform_validation_error');} else {jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').removeClass('gform_validation_error');}setTimeout( function() { /* delay the scroll by 50 milliseconds to fix a bug in chrome */ jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').offset().top); }, 50 );if(window['gformInitDatepicker']) {gformInitDatepicker();}if(window['gformInitPriceFields']) {gformInitPriceFields();}var current_page = jQuery('#gform_source_page_number_17').val();gformInitSpinner( 17, 'https://littlevillagemag.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope/images/spinner.gif' );jQuery(document).trigger('gform_page_loaded', [17, current_page]);window['gf_submitting_17'] = false;}else if(!is_redirect){var confirmation_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('.GF_AJAX_POSTBACK').html();if(!confirmation_content){confirmation_content = contents;}setTimeout(function(){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').replaceWith(confirmation_content);jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gf_17').offset().top);jQuery(document).trigger('gform_confirmation_loaded', [17]);window['gf_submitting_17'] = false;}, 50);}else{jQuery('#gform_17').append(contents);if(window['gformRedirect']) {gformRedirect();}}jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [17, current_page]);} );} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> if(typeof gf_global == 'undefined') var gf_global = {"gf_currency_config":{"name":"U.S. Dollar","symbol_left":"$","symbol_right":"","symbol_padding":"","thousand_separator":",","decimal_separator":".","decimals":2},"base_url":"https:\/\/littlevillagemag.com\/wp-content\/plugins\/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope","number_formats":[],"spinnerUrl":"https:\/\/littlevillagemag.com\/wp-content\/plugins\/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope\/images\/spinner.gif"};jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_render', function(event, formId, currentPage){if(formId == 17) {if(typeof Placeholders != 'undefined'){ Placeholders.enable(); }} } );jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_conditional_logic', function(event, formId, fields, isInit){} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> jQuery(document).ready(function(){jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [17, 1]) } ); </script>