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This interview was conducted in early March, just before the pandemic hit.

Jason Gardner has lived in Whitehaven his entire life.

Last year, he opened Trap Fusion, a restaurant serving healthy southern cuisine, with Monique Williams. The restaurant just blocks from where he lives.

The Whitehaven area, we call that the black Harlem of Memphis. To me Whitehaven shows strength and growth,” said Gardner. “I have a lot of friends my age and we are coming back to the neighborhood and implanting businesses in the neighborhood so grassroots strong heritage and just a great culture in that neighborhood.”

Gardner grew up eating in the very same space in which they opened Trap Fusion. Back then it was Pollard’s BBQ.

Before they could open the restaurant, the space needed nearly $22,000 in renovations to upgrade the kitchen, bathroom, plumbing, and electrical and to install a new sign to make the restaurant more visible.

EDGE awarded Williams and Gardner a $14,500 zero-interest loan to help fund the renovation.

“It definitely was a help to our business and gave us the kickstart we needed,” said Gardner. “It helped us do a lot of things to this building that we wouldn’t have been able to do on the budget we had. When you go into the restaurant business you don’t always know how much these things are going to cost.”

Today, business is booming and they are planning to expand into the space next door.

“The taste of success is great. It has been a learning curve and we learned that there is a need for good, healthy food in this part of town,” said Gardner. “We pride ourselves on all of our ingredients. Nothing is canned. We use fresh vegetables from local farmers. Everything is fresh and made to order.”

And for Gardner, being a part of a Whitehaven comeback is what it is all about.

“I’ve always seen that the neighborhood has had the opportunity to grow and as anything else, it is going to take people like myself to come back to Whitehaven and plant those seeds and watch the neighborhood grow again,” said Gardner. “And that neighborhood made me, so I want to go back to the neighborhood and be a role model to someone and actually help the neighborhood come back to what I knew Whitehaven once was.”