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Winter Haven plaza gives women of color a place to grow their businesses

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Posted at 6:28 PM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 18:48:25-04

WINTER HAVEN,Fla — Ask around and people will tell you Louise’s Café serves the best soul food in Winter Haven.

Terry Dewdney and Cheryl Wright opened the restaurant five years ago.

“We got the best grits in town. We’re famous for our grits,” said Dewdney.

The café has become a gathering place for members of the community. After being able to survive the pandemic, the owners saw an opportunity to make the restaurant an anchor for a plaza.

Dewdney’s Plaza was opened in Fall 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. It was just named the 2021 Small Business of the Year by the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce.

There are eight other businesses in the plaza, from an ice cream parlor to a wax salon and they’re all owned by women of color. Erica Dollison owns Wax Haven, the only waxing center in Winter Haven.

“I’m actually expanding right now. I’m looking into getting into payroll and hiring other persons,” said Dollison.

The plaza focuses on giving young entrepreneurs like Dollison a space to start and grow their businesses.

“I didn’t expect the amount of love I was getting when I first opened up. I have people traveling all over from Zephyrhills, Tampa, Orlando, just to help support a small Black-owned business,” Dollison said.

The plaza is located on the First Street corridor, a once-bustling neighborhood that was full of Black-owned businesses.

Dewdney hopes to revive the area to what it once was.

“They took a lot of buildings out, a lot of businesses out so by me being able to come and put some of this back to together means a lot to me,” he said.