Just a few years ago, Allysha Holmes felt like an empty soul.
A serious accident had taken away her nursing career, the ability to care for herself and the people she loved, and kept her confined at home as she recovered from her injuries.
Cooking became her way out of the darkness.
“It gave me a sense of purpose again,” said Holmes, owner of Soul D’Lysh, a soul food restaurant which opened in Quakertown Sunday.
The idea for her business was born out of near tragedy. Holmes had suffered serious brain and spinal injuries after she and her daughter, Saniah, were struck by a van as they walked down a West Philadelphia sidewalk in 2015. They both survived, but the two years that followed were difficult.
Holmes depended heavily on her husband, Keith Morris, as she underwent physical and occupational therapy to regain her cognitive and physical abilities. She felt lost.
“You get depressed when you’re used to having your regular life. You’re working, you’re making your own life, you have a sense of being, you have a sense of independence, you have a sense of purpose.
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“And for that to be taken away from you, you feel like you have nothing. You feel like an empty soul,” said Holmes, who started cooking as a way of coping after friends and family suggested she do what she loved.
“What music is to everyone else, what working out is to everyone else, as far as how they cope and how they find their outlet or inner peace, that’s what cooking is to me. That is my outlet, that is my inner peace, that is how I center myself mentally, emotionally and physically,” Holmes explained.
Soul food was a natural passion for Holmes, who grew up watching several family members cook, including her father and grandmother.
“Soul food is a form of art. I feel like soul food is supposed to make you feel happy, warm inside, confident. It’s supposed to give you that family hug inside of your belly. And I just feel like with cooking, you’re able to express how you’re feeling.
“I kind of took what I learned and saw from all of my different family members, included what I saw on the Food Network channel, and kind of created my own thing with that,” said Holmes.
Soul D’Lysh, which Holmes co-owns with her husband, originally started in 2017 as a food truck and catering business. But after five years of working hard to build a loyal following, as well as their savings, the couple expanded to a brick-and-mortar restaurant in downtown Quakertown.
The recent grand opening brought in lines of customers who waited to place their orders, as they bobbed their heads to music spun by DJ Karl Hill, and took in smells wafting from the kitchen of dishes like jerk chicken alfredo, braised oxtail, fried fish po boy sandwiches and crispy chicken fritters.
“It’s good to have a Black-owned business flourishing in town. Good soul food restaurants are hard to come by,” said Shaheer Johnson, of Telford.
“I had to come support,” said Sayee Sawbo, of Philadelphia, as he happily eyed his stack of Styrofoam containers piled high with seared salmon, chicken wings, mac n’ cheese, collard greens and whipped sweet potatoes.
“It’s wonderful. I know they’re going to be good providers and I know they’re going to be good to their customers,” said Emily Herder, a family friend from Lansdale.
Amanda McMillion, the owner of Preferred Nutrition, another downtown Quakertown business, said she wanted to come out to support another local business.
“I think it’s a good twist for the neighborhood. It’s something different and I love Caribbean food and soul food,” said McMilllion.
The rush of Sunday left Holmes and her family exhausted, but grateful.
“We got a tremendous response from the community,” said Holmes. “I’m really honored that everyone is happy that we’re here. It’s my goal to keep everyone happy, so that we can continue to grow and possibly expand one day.
“The feeling I want people to have when they’re walking in here is kind of like they’re being invited into my home and they’re eating a homecooked meal. I want them to feel comforted when they’re here.”
Holmes thinks back on the accident and said she feels it put her on the path she was meant to be on. Soul D’Lysh gave her back a sense of pride in being able to serve her community, while providing for her family.
“I really can’t express how grateful I am that we made it out. So I feel like there is a purpose, there’s definitely a purpose. And I just want to continue to try to live out my destiny,” said Holmes.
If you go: Soul D’Lysh is located at 500 W. Broad St., Quakertown; 610-466-5661; souldlysh.com.
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: New Quakertown restaurant features soul food