Feature Photo: Sam and Quamer Fowler. Photo by Meredith Winner, Mer-Made Photography
By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
MILLVILLE – Even though Sam Fowler has been in the restaurant business for 20 years, owning Soul of the Sea soul food restaurant at 622 High Street in Millville seems like a dream.
He owned Best Southern Cooking in Vineland, but Soul of the Sea is giving Fowler a chance to own his building and in a high traffic area. During the interview, the phone rang rapid-fire with call-in orders while customers streamed in by car and walking from the neighborhood.
From fried fish, ox tail, turkey wings, and on, Soul of the Sea did not miss with its menu items. But the “soul” in Soul of Sea could stand for community. Fowler has opened up his restaurant to networking and youth events in the six months it has been open in the location, making it a gathering place.
“If you stick to it long enough, sooner or later, you’re going to see some type of result,” said Quamer Fowler, Sam Fowler’s son and a spokesman for the restaurant. “What’s the saying that goes if you hang around the barbershop long enough, eventually you’ll get a haircut.
“That is the law of reaping, sowing and reaping what you sow. So what I learned from him was just to never give up. It took him 20 years to see the fruits of his labor. Not many people are willing to wait that long. Most people will wait five or six months, or maybe a year or three before they give up and move on.”
Sam Fowler told Front Runner New Jersey many of the staple items on the menu have been passed down in his own family from generation to generation.
“I picked up cooking since I was a kid from my grandma and mom,” Sam Fowler said. “That’s why I was encouraged to start cooking. Soul Food is what I grew up on.”
Sam Fowler sought to turn his life around after spending several years in prison. Cooking came natural for him and set out to earn a living and make people happy with his food in the process.
“He wanted to leave that game behind,” said Quamer Fowler, wearing a “Faith Based Entrepreneur” sweatshirt, a sign of his belief in God and good works. “He wanted something better for himself, his children and for the community. Cooking was always something he loved to do.”
Fowler said with opening up his business for events, he hopes to share his work with the community and that it results in giving others the chance he has been able to take advantage of.
“I want people who come here to leave with the sense of hospitality and a good feeling,” the elder Fowler said.
Quamer admits he did not understand his father’s determination growing up, that he would begrudgingly visit him because he knew the older Fowler would put him to work.
“It was a hassle, I ain’t even going to lie,” Quamer Fowler said. “I was a young kid and just wanted to get out and play and all of that stuff. I was basically raised up inside of the restaurant. It taught me a lot of things as far as discipline, the value of hard work, what it takes to earn a dollar, manners and respect.
“Now, I understand his responsibilities trying to build everything like that but at the time I didn’t understand. My dad is amazing and he is an amazing father. He has a lot of ambition. He has a lot of goals and has a huge heart. He really taught me how to work. And I’m not talking about just work. It wasn’t just work but how to reach a goal.”
The business is hoping as well. Soul of the Sea has been a busy edition along High Street and the Fowlers are hoping to keep the positive vibes going.
“We get a lot of people who travel from all over,” Quamer Fowler said. “Some from right off the street often when they see the sign. Coming here just made sense. We also wanted to own our own building. We were renting before.”
Soul of the Sea is now swimming in an ocean of great food, a great atmosphere and spirit of community.
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