Oct. 28, 2016
When Latoya Williams graduated from Arsenal Technical High
School in 2006, she had dreams of becoming an orthodontist. Armed with her high
school diploma and certification as a dental assistant through Tech’s vocational
programming, Williams headed off to IUPUI to fulfill that dream.
Then life happened.
Her father passed away and she left college for about a year,
later receiving a paralegal degree from Ivy Tech Community College. Williams tried
to make that career work, but her heart wasn’t in it.
“I was a paralegal for six to seven months and I hated it,”
said Williams, 28. “I was a gofer … I didn’t really learn anything and I wasn’t
doing anything that I had learned in school.”
It was a time in her life when Williams didn’t know what was
next or which direction to turn. That’s when a family friend stepped in with an
opportunity she couldn’t resist. The friend was looking for someone to take
over his mother’s restaurant.
“I wasn’t even thinking about opening my own restaurant,” said
Williams, who had spent six years as a waitress and manager at Kountry Kitchen
Soul Food Place. “I knew I wanted to own my own business at the time, but I
didn’t know what kind of business.”
On May 23, 2014, Williams opened The Grub House, 1953 N. College Ave.
Surrounded by houses and apartment buildings, the cozy restaurant specialized
in breakfast, burgers and fries, chicken wings and sandwiches during its first
As the business has grown, so has its menu. In addition to
the original items, Williams has also added soul food staples like greens,
macaroni and cheese, baked chicken and pork chops.
She’s also joined the food truck phenomenon, with two Grub
House on the Go trucks that frequent local businesses throughout the city and
provide service at conventions and events (including GenCon, Circle City
Classic and Black Expo’s Summer Celebration). In a full-circle kind of moment, Grub
House on the Go has served Tech students and staff a couple of times this year
While her mom manages the food trucks, Williams spends most
of her time at the restaurant with her grandmother and aunt, who churn out the
delicious meals served at The Grub House.
“It’s a family business, but I have also hired several
people from the community. I’ve built a team,” said Williams, an Indianapolis
native who attended IPS School 27, Forest Manor Middle School and Arsenal Tech.
Williams is always thinking about the next move to make. She
said her ultimate goal is to expand the restaurant business. “I just feel that
if McDonald’s can do it, I can do it, too.”
While she admits running her own business is tough, she will
continue to put in long hours and sleepless nights to expand what she has started.
“People look at my life and think my life is great, and it’s
not. I’m working hard right now,” said Williams. “I hope one day that I don’t
have to work as hard, but right now I’m just grinding. I want this to be great.
My name is on it and I want it to be something.”
Many people say she gets her entrepreneurial spirit from her
father, who owned Williams Car Wash at 16th Street and Central
Avenue for 43 years.
“Every day I hear, ‘It’s in your blood. You’re just like
your daddy,’” said Williams.
Just like her dad, Williams loves working with people —
talking to them, greeting them, taking care of them. “I love customer service;
my heart is in customer service,” she said. “Since I opened the restaurant,
people have been so supportive. Luckily this is an up-and-coming neighborhood.
People sometimes just stop in to say, ‘I’m just checking in on you.’ We’re
becoming a family.”
In the beginning, Williams thought owning The Grub House was
just going to be something for her to do while she mapped out the rest of her
life. But it’s turned out to be so much more.
“It ended up being something greater; God had other plans,”
said Williams. “Sometimes it’s like a dream. And while I know anything can
happen tomorrow, right now I’m living it and I’m loving it. Whether I’m making
a dollar or not, it’s genuinely what I love. I enjoy it.”