Ben’s Chili Bowl Turns 65

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On the stage on the sixty fifth anniversary of the founding of Ben’s Chili Bowl on Aug. 22, Virginia Ali, the co-founder of the restaurant chain and model, sat between Black girls entrepreneurial icons Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of Black Leisure Tv, CEO of Salamander Motels and Resorts and the primary Black American girl billionaire; and Cathy Hughes, the founding father of media firm Radio One and have become the primary Black girl to steer a publicly-lead firm.

Virginia Ali, owner of Ben's Chili Bowl, thanks the D.C. area for supporting the business over the years. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)
Virginia Ali, proprietor of Ben’s Chili Bowl, thanks the D.C. space for supporting the enterprise through the years. (Ja’Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)

Ali, 89, within the firm of enterprise standouts, didn’t go unnoticed on the celebration that happened in entrance of the restaurant chain’s storied U Road NW location in entrance of dozens of individuals.

“We three girls began out with a mate in these companies and both by divorce or dying, we had been in a position to keep it up,” Hughes, 76, mentioned. “Every considered one of us had our trials but it surely was you, D.C., that stood by us. D.C. is the explanation three Black girls succeeded in enterprise.”

Ali co-founded Ben’s Chili Bowl together with her husband, Ben, in 1958. 

All through the a long time, the corporate has served famous figures such because the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Jesse Jackson, President Barack Obama, many members of the Congressional Black Caucus together with every District delegate to the U.S. Congress, each District mayor and plenty of Council members in addition to on a regular basis folks. 

The U Road location has seen the 1968 rebellion after the assassination of King, financial downturns, the development of the Inexperienced Line within the Eighties, gentrification and the coronavirus pandemic. Ben Ali died in 2009, however his spouse has continued to work for the corporate by coming to the U Road retailer primarily serving and chatting with clients. Ali has been credited because the drive for preserving Ben’s in operation.

Reward for Icon Ali

Johnson, 74, waited for the ceremony to start within the again eating room with Hughes and different notables. When requested about Ali, she smiled broadly.

“You take a look at her proper now,” mentioned Johnson. “What's she doing? She is strolling across the room, speaking together with her clients. That tells me lots about her dedication and her worth system.”

Shawn Townsend serves because the president of the Restaurant Affiliation of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), an curiosity group on behalf of Washington, D.C. space eateries. Townsend, 39, mentioned Ben’s Chili Bowl “is iconic.”

“This place is a civil rights historical past and Black historical past landmark,” he mentioned. “The Ali household values group engagement, household presence. Mr. Ali have to be trying down on us for preserving one thing going that he and his spouse Virginia began. The household has carried on the legacy.”

Townsend additionally mentioned Ben’s Chili Bowl had one other asset.

“The meals is sweet,” he mentioned with a chuckle.

Etan Thomas got here to the ceremony representing the group that presently manages his former NBA group the Washington Wizards, Monumental Sports activities & Leisure. Through the ceremony, Thomas introduced Ali with a jersey from the Washington Capitals, additionally owned by Monumental Sports activities & Leisure. Former Washington Wizards Michael Adams and Harvey Grant introduced Ali with jerseys from the Washington Mystics and the Wizards, respectively.

Doug Williams, an govt with the Washington Commanders, sat on the dais together with his group president Jason Wright. Williams achieved fame when he led the then-Washington Redskins to a Tremendous Bowl victory in 1988 as the primary Black quarterback to start out and win the league championship. Williams introduced Ali with an autographed jersey. Wright famous the presence of the three Black girls entrepreneurs on the stage and mentioned they represented R.A.C.E., Resilience, Authenticity, Dedication and Excellence.

Danita Johnson, president of enterprise operations for DC United, additionally introduced Ali with a jersey and mentioned, “with out you, I might not be right here.”

D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) spoke on the ceremony on the significance of Ben’s Chili Bowl to U Road and famous the presence of her colleagues, Matt Frumin (D-Ward 3) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5). D.C. Former D.C. first girl Cora Masters Barry sat on the dais with Ali and spoke, and performing D.C. Police Chief Pamela A. Smith delivered remarks.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) got here to the ceremony in the direction of the tip and mentioned Ben’s Chili Bowl and Ali “are true D.C. establishments.”

Ali spoke briefly on the finish of the ceremony, thanking everybody for coming to the 65th celebration and urging folks to get in line to get their free meal consisting of a half smoke or hotdog with chips and soda.

Jacqui Lucas, a resident of Alexandria, Virgina, waited to get into Ben’s Chili Bowl for her free meal since 9 a.m. The serving of meals didn’t begin till 1:30 p.m.

“I'll love the free meals,” Lucas, 69, mentioned. “I've come to Ben’s many; many instances and I like coming right here due to the meals and the ambiance.”