By Doni Glover, Publisher
Unapologetically Black: Doni Glover Autobiography
Thursdays at Midnight on WEAA 88.9 FM
(UPPER MARLBORO – October 15, 2020) – The entire world’s normal flow has been horrifically disturbed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is effectively disrupting most every aspect of our lives. And, as we are repeatedly reminded by the mainstream news how Blacks and Latinos in the US are disproportionately affected by COVID versus their white counterparts, Bmorenews has elected to stay on point and find out how Black businesses are faring amidst the turmoil.
Regular followers of this page know that I am a business advocate. I personally believe that the stronger our businesses are, the stronger the community will be. As Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford often says, “No one hires Black people more than Black people.”
We all know the score. We all know that if America catches a cold, we often catch pneumonia. Yet, we also know about Tulsa’s Greenwood District commonly referred to as “Black Wall Street”. We know that it was the most magnanimous demonstration of self-determination this nation has ever seen. And we know about Richmond, Virginia’s Jackson Ward – another Black Wall Street. Truth is, there has always been some type of Black business operating since this country’s beginnings.
In any event, tonight, we ventured to one of the wealthiest Black jurisdictions in the country, Prince George’s County, MD. After a 50-minute ride from Baltimore, we landed in Upper Marlboro on Main Street. This was not our first visit, although it’s been a few years since we’ve hosted an event at Chef Donnell Long’s Olde Towne Inn. Nonetheless, it became the perfect location to visit.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the Chef, whom I first met back in 2006. Bmorenews hosted a “Politics06” event at the Stonefish Grill. I learned then that this Black man was very serious about his craft and his business, and that he only accepted the absolute best from his staff.
Before I go on, let me just say something I kind of keep in the back of my mind as it relates to the need to patronize Black-owned businesses. The truth is, while Chef has always been a pleasant businessman with which to deal, all of that is irrelevant when it comes to the bigger picture and the significance of us supporting our Black businesses. We, as a people, must understand that if a brother or sister is running a legitimate business that employs several Black people, it is automatically a priority in my book and therefore it must be supported. Furthermore, we do not have to be in love with a Black business owner; nor do we have to like them. However, if they are providing jobs for the people in the community, then I believe it is our innate duty to support them the same way Harriet Tubman felt it was her duty to help free the slaves.
Anyway – Chef Long’s well-earned reputation is one of versatility and resilience that is translated best in the kitchen. As a chef and restaurateur, Donnell has displayed excellence, intense passion and an innovative, yet classic approach to cooking and cuisine.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Donnell developed a love for cooking at a very young age. While navigating the world of foster care, Donnell managed to gain momentum and follow his culinary dream. Graduating at the top of his class at Washington Culinary Institute, Donnell soared above his contemporaries and quickly received accolades and opportunities to display his talent in the kitchen.
To say the least, Chef Long is a victor and has been one for a long time. And he refuses to do anything except succeed. He is a pleasant reminder of the tenacity necessary for an entrepreneur of any generation.
So, to walk up into his restaurant tonight and see Black patrons socially-distanced, dining, and enjoying themselves both inside and outside on the patio simply says it all for me.
His business is a staple for both Upper Marlboro and the broader county as well. Many people, including a host of politicians, have found their way to his table.
Speaking of – the food tonight was delectable. First, I had the pecan pear salad. Oh my heavens! And then I crushed the blackened barbeque salmon with mashed potatoes and these off-the-chart string beans. It was gourmet at its finest! One guest had the slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone ribs served with waffle fries and slaw. And another ordered a dish that came with a cornbread pie of which I had to try a slice. Lawd, Lawd, Lawd!
I also saw about four different patrons who all ordered pasta dishes.
In conclusion, OTI Restaurant is open and serving customers. It is a Black-owned restaurant that is clearly supported by a majority of Black patrons. With the County Courthouse next door and the County Administration Building a block away, this restaurant is doing what many cannot: STAY OPEN!
And they deserve our applause and support.
OTI Restaurant in Upper Marlboro is a thorough reminder to me that with the right training, preparation, and plan – a business can indeed survive COVID and any other pandemic, especially when people support it. On the Chef’s end, he has earned a solid stance in that community and continues to do his part to keep customers coming back. This includes top-notch customer service.
Right now, businesses’ customer service must exceed the competition. Those who go above and beyond to take care of customers tend to retain their customers and get new ones, too, from word of mouth.
On that note, I witnessed the Chef visiting tables and making sure guests were pleased. Having a background in hospitality myself, I can appreciate the gesture. It shows that you care and that you are paying attention. That’s customer service at its finest!
Honestly, I was truly proud to see a brother doing the damn thing. Sure, he knew he was under a microscope, but he handled it with the poise of a true professional – as did our waiter.
If you’re in the vicinity, do check out the Olde Towne Inn. You won’t be disappointed! And you’ll be helping the Chef provide employment opportunities for the community.