Bernard Coleman-McGraw was managing a restaurant and paying a mortgage in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, devastating the city and forcing him to start over. It took two weeks for Bernard to locate his wife Charlene and their children at the Astrodome in Houston. With no home or job to return to, Bernard decided to set down roots in San Antonio and do what he knows best: Creole Cooking.
Bernard opened his first San Antonio restaurant in a run-down shack in the city’s south side in 2006. As word spread about his great cooking and his inspirational story, new customers started flocking to his business, lining up outside to try Bernard’s fried fish. It was hard to keep up with demand. So a few loyal customers rallied together to raise funds for Bernard to move to a new location. Right around that time, a local university invited him to be the chef for its cafeteria, offering both the position and spare room for a new restaurant. Bernard turned to Accion Texas for a loan to help establish his business in the new space. He used his loan of about $4,500 to purchase supplies and hire three part-time employees. He now serves both students on meal plans and his regular customers.
Never forgetting his experience as a displaced person, Bernard also serves food to the homeless who take shelter under a local bridge. Whether mentoring students or providing much needed food, Bernard strongly believes in giving back.
This year, with his business thriving, Bernard sought and received a second loan to buy new equipment and expand into a space at Stinson Municipal Airport, and he has plans to open po’ boy shops throughout the city. He says, “If we hadn’t had the support of Accion, I don’t know if we would be here today.”