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Small, black-owned restaurant launches during pandemic, helps rebuild community

A new restaurant is now open in St. Paul's Rondo neighborhood with a mission of reconnecting the community.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Inside "Taste of Rondo," the menu has something for everyone. 

The new restaurant opened in St. Paul's Rondo neighborhood on July 5.
And there's a mission behind the menu to bring community together and bring history to life.

So, when a customer sits down for lunch or dinner they're also helping rebuild a community.

Owners Charles and Kasara Carter had an appetite filled with desire and drive. Now, they are full after beating the odds. They opened their restaurant when other small businesses were forced to close because of the pandemic.

But before the celebration, their journey to open Taste of Rondo was peppered with challenges. Charles Carter said the city initially declined his request to operate a restaurant with liquor license.

“Every direction I decided to turn, there was a shutdown,” Charles Carter said. "I plead to the city. They still said, 'No, you can’t have a private event center unless you are in the downtown district.'"

Charles Carter grew up in Mississippi. His wife was born and raised in Rondo.

Together, they started a petition and knocked on doors throughout the neighborhood to drum up support.

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"My spirit wouldn’t let me sleep. Here I am, an African-American man trying so hard to give something back to the community," Charles said. "You can count on one had, we just didn’t have any ( businesses).

"I had this vision in my mind of reconnecting Rondo to have a place where the Rondo community can come.”

The Rondo neighborhood was the heartbeat of St. Paul. In the 1920s, Rondo -- Saint Paul’s largest African-American neighborhood -- flourished. That changed in September of 1956 to make room for I-94. Hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed. 

Now, decades later, history is on the walls at Taste of Rondo. 

“The wall serves as a memorial to what has happened to this community and is a constant reminder,” Kasara Carter said. “It is kind of like a rebirth."

After that battle, the Carters have a restaurant and a full liquor license.

Charles’ parents died before the restaurant opened, but he said they both would be proud.

“My father watched me struggle. He said, ' I am prayingg for you all the time. It doesn’t matter what comes your way, don’t give up,’” he said. "Mom and dad would be proud. They would be proud.”

The restaurant has patio seating and is open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Starting Saturday, they will offer brunch one day per week.

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