(LOS ANGELES, Calif.) — NEWS: Not many small Black businesses can boast five generations of family operation. But more importantly, Hawkins House of Burgers, (http://www.hawkinsburgers.com/ ) established in 1939, has maintained decades of community service to its surrounding neighborhood, Watts, CA. So, when current restaurateur Cynthia Hawkins found herself on the other end of a Caltrans state issued decree requiring the removal of part of their building, so a 500 square foot patch of land beneath it could be appraised and sold at public auction, her terror was palatable.
Having barely survived operations during Covid, to now being confronted with this challenge, was like the onslaught of facing another pandemic all over again. Fortunately for the Hawkins family business, former Compton resident A.K. King, got wind of the dilemma via social media and reached out to Jay King, the CEO/President of the California Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC)(https://www.calbcc.org/).
As the Chamber’s CEO and president, King also sits on the Caltrans Small Business Council as the Chairman of the African American DBE Participation Committee for the California Department of Transportation. Staying true to the advocacy mission of the CBCC, King was able to reach out directly to Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. The pending order to demolish the Hawkins’ building has been halted and everyone is working on various resolutions concerning the matter. A petition (change.org/hawkinsburgers) and GoFundMe (https://gofund.me/d476b454) has been set up to support the 82 year old community institution.
“Because Cynthia Hawkins is a small Black business owner, this issue could have been viewed as racially discriminatory, when in fact it was not. In fact, small businesses across the state and the nation even, face matters that are more about miscommunication and bureaucracy then perhaps race and gender. Many small businesses understandably operate in a bubble implementing their day-to-day survival so the California Black Chamber of Commerce, like most business chambers of commerce, are many times underutilized resources. We are here to provide service and support to our constituents and the Hawkins Burgers’ situation provides an exemplary case study of how winning resolutions can be accessible for all,” explains Jay King, CEO/President of the CBCC.
“So many people came out and promised support and help,” cites Cynthia Hawkins, the youngest of 14 children, who runs the restaurant with help from her two daughters and three grandchildren. “But it was Jay King who made things happen and made them happen quickly! As a small business operator, I never realized I had access to resources like Jay King and the Chamber. I am deeply grateful and just humbled quite honestly. The matter is not fully remedied yet, but King’s support is like an answered prayer and a miracle for my family.”
“Caltrans is not the bad guy here. In fact, there are no bad guys. Caltrans has a small business council, so what we witnessed was the council at work. As a member and chairman of their ad hoc committee, I was able to directly reach out to CalTrans and they responded immediately and halted the declaration for demolition. The system works when organizations and agencies in place do their job. In this case the organization was the CBCC and it did its job as a resource center and liaison and we will continue to find a real resolution to the matter, because it’s what we are in place to do,” notes King.
The Hawkins House of Burgers was originally a malt shop back in the early 1940’s. The business was one of many family-owned enterprises over the past decades, before eventually becoming a full throttle restaurant business in 1984. The family’s motto has always been “Take care of your community and they will ALWAYS take care of you,” and it is this tradition that has lasted over eight decades. Cynthia Hawkins has lovingly continued with service that includes feeding the homeless; supporting local families with food and funds; offering scholarships to neighborhood kids; providing food to grieving families when tragedy occurs, particularly to those effected by gun violence; and notably offering jobs and training to the community residents. The Hawkins House of Burgers even offers discounts to Caltrans workers!
As the largest African American non-profit business organization, representing thousands of small and emerging businesses, affiliates and chambers of commerce throughout California, the CBCC is extremely concerned about the aftermath of Covid-19 which has immobilized and shut down businesses around the entire world. California is a large and crucial market. The California Black Chamber of Commerce has over 4,200 registered small businesses throughout the state. A large percentage of these businesses consist of sole proprietors who rely on their businesses’ income to survive. COVID-19 has had an unforgivable impact on this already marginalized and fragile, small business community. From the mom-and-pop eateries, barbershops and corner stores, to business professionals, the impact of this pandemic is projected to decimate this entire workforce.
The California Black Chamber of Commerce is committed to helping small businesses survive through these uncertain times. Contact the California Black Chamber of Commerce at https://www.calbcc.org/, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 916-467-8878.
Related link: https://www.calbcc.org/
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