Success Stories of African Americans in the Service Industry

The service sector is one of the most diverse industries in the country, providing work opportunities to people of all backgrounds. In fact, restaurants employ more minority managers than any other industry, and in 2014, 15 percent of first-line supervisors/managers of food preparation and service workers were African American. In celebration of Black History Month, Path Forward is helping to tell the stories of the diverse faces of the industry, from entry-level employees to managers to owners.

Rowetta Robertson, Market Development Manager At Mattress Firm

Rowetta Robertson has risen through the retail ranks to change her future and that of her family. Since advancing from a manager-in-training to a market development manager today at Mattress Firm, Rowetta has been able to purchase her first home and give her sons access to a better education. Speaking of the earlier challenges and positive changes in her life Rowetta says that “My life could have ended up much different … all because my career in retail.” Learn more about Rowetta’s story here.

Terence Dickson, Founder Of Terra Cafe In Baltimore

In 1999, Terence bought an old building in Baltimore with hopes of starting his own community-centered restaurant. Ten years later, he opened Terra Cafe. Through the cafe and other small business ventures, Terence has given back to his community by nurturing other young entrepreneurs whose businesses found a home in his building. Terence feels fulfilled knowing that his business offers the opportunity to help a local economy sorely in need of jobs, especially those in need of a second chance. “I have cats who work for me that might not work anywhere else. What do you do when a cat comes home from 13 years being locked up, and he says I don’t want to go back to the street?… You hire him at Terra Cafe,” shares Terence. Read more about Terence’s story here.

Patricia Remarais, General Manager Of Crate & Barrel In New York City

After starting out as a part-time sales associate, Patricia Remarais now serves as the General Manager of Crate & Barrel’s flagship store in New York City with over two decades of experience. When asked about what she is most proud of, Patricia talks about working with her employees to shape them into smart, driven and creative future store managers. “There is no greater feeling than to get that phone call from old employees who say thank you for all you have taught them, and tell you that they were promoted to store manager,” she says. Hear more from Patricia here.

Titus Perkins, Executive Kitchen Manager, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group

Although Titus Perkins was raised by his handicapped grandmother and became a father at age 16, he hasn’t let hardship and adversity get in the way of building a career that allows him to support his family and mentor young people in the community. He started his service industry career with a job at the New Orleans Fair Grounds during high school and quickly became a dishwasher at Ralph Brennan’s BACCO. After rising through the kitchen ranks and serving as a general manager for the Sonic Corporation, Titus now works as executive kitchen manager. “I started out as a dishwasher and now I hold the keys to every restaurant that Ralph Brennan owns,” he shares. See more on Titus’ story here.

Nicole Cokley-Dunlap, Operating Vice President Of Diversity & Inclusion And Community Service At Bloomingdale’s

Through her position at Bloomingdale’s, Nicole has spent years using her influence to provide African Americans jobs in the retail industry. Additionally, as Co-President of the Black Retail Action Group (BRAG), she works with fellow retail executives to provide opportunities to African American youth who want to work in fashion and retail. Nicole discusses the importance of cultivating diversity and inclusion into today’s retail workforce: “At BRAG we believe it’s important for people to see themselves reflected,” Nicole says. “We’re committed to partnering with the industry (to create) a sustainable solution.” Learn more about Nicole’s story here.

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