Celebrating Black History: Appleton restaurant owner shares his story

Published: Feb. 6, 2020 at 4:14 PM CST
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The Cozzy Corner is an award-winning restaurant that is no stranger to Northeast Wisconsin.

It’s known for its comfort food that originated down south.

On any day of the week, the sweet aroma of soul food hangs in the air and drifts down the street in Appleton.

"We do chicken, fried chicken, BBQ chicken, smoked ribs, pull pork, smoked chicken,” owner Philip Bennett said. “We can do pretty much anything."

From the decorations inside the restaurant to the seasonings on Chef Philip’s shelf, the history at The Cozzy Corner is just as rich as the flavor of the food.

"It just represents us, our heritage and where we come from as black people,” Bennett said.

Bennett said his restaurant gives customers a taste of black culture.

"It's mainly about soul food, comfort food, food we grew up with and our ancestors grew up with,” said Bennet.

The Cozzy Corner was one of the first black-owned businesses in the city of Appleton.

The restaurant opened in 2013, when the percentage of black people in the community was small.

"If you just work hard and focus on what you're doing, you can do whatever you want to do in any environment,” said Bennett.

Bennett said it's been rewarding and a labor of love to be a black business owner in a predominately white community.

"It doesn't matter what color you are,” said Bennett. “I do well being in a predominately white area because I provide a good service at whatever I’m doing."

The Cozzy Corner is an example of what the city says it’s been looking for.

"It's a fact that people of color will come to a city where they know they can have a safe place to live, first of all, of course, where they can find entertainment of interest, where they can find a place to go and get their hair did,” Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator for the City of Appleton Karen Nelson said.

Nelson said the city is focused on attracting minorities and keeping them around.

"We don't want to be left out, and we don't want to be the last city that people choose to come to,” Nelson said.

Cozzy Corner is here to stay.

They’ll keep serving up food for the soul and turning new visitors into repeat customers.