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Big Momma's Soul Kitchen prepares to say goodbye to west Louisville

Jessie Green opened her restaurant on West Broadway nearly two decades ago. She's fed thousands in the community but said it's time to retire.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For nearly two decades, Big Momma's Soul Kitchen has been a staple in west Louisville. 

During the lunch hour there's little to no stopping between people coming in and out of the doors to the little white-brick eatery. Almost every customer doesn't even have to look at the menus to know give their order in front of a window filled with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, dressing and other Southern favorites. 

"I get the barbeque chicken and macaroni," Fourth grader Makiyah Pipes said. 

"I fell in love with the fried chicken," her uncle Marcus Pipes chimes in. 

Everyone has their favorite Big Momma's meal, but there's no bad pick off the menu. 

"Not to brag but all my food is good," Jessie Green, owner of Big Momma's,  laughs among the sounds of food orders and a large fan keeping the busy kitchen cool. 

But now, "Big Momma" isn't at the fryer or at the window anymore. When WHAS11 visited her restaurant Thursday afternoon, Green was busy washing vibrant greens in a large sink. She said she can't spend too much time on her feet in the kitchen anymore, but is always at the restaurant from open to close. 

After 19 years, she's announced her retirement and closing shop in west Louisville. 

"It's been a long way, we've come a long way and done a whole lot in that length of time," Green said. "It's going to be hard leaving, but due to my health problems I have to go." 

A love of serving and family

Green said she started cooking at home, then moved her business to a nearby church because of how popular her food was with family friends and neighbors. 

At the age of 61 she opened Big Momma's - and the rest is history.

Green said it was her love to help people that made her want to open the restaurant and serve the community. 

"I love to help people," Green said. "I don't want anything in return, I just love to see the expressions on their face when I get to help someone. That's what I'm going to miss the most, helping people."

Every year, Big Momma's serves over 1,000 people for their Christmas giveaway. Green said she would cook for anyone in need throughout the year. She said she remembered feeding protesters during the Breonna Taylor movement in 2020. 

"We have another family through that now too," she said. 

But the closing of Momma's won't stop her heart for serving others. Her daughter Sheryl Fox, who is a manager for the restaurant as well, also works with Feeding Louisville. Sheryl will work more with the group after the restaurant closed with her mom volunteering when she's able. 

Credit: Alyssa Newton WHAS11
Jessie Green, lovingly known as "Big Momma" is set to retire later this year after 19 years of owning Big Momma's Soul Food Kitchen, a west Louisville staple.

A love of helping others is something that has always been part of their family. 

"She has a big heart, she'll give you the shirt off her back. Just so giving," Fox said. "When I was little I didn't think I'd be like that -- but now we're all like that. It's just how we were raised." 

Ever since Green opened the restaurant, the staff has always been made up of family and close friends. 

"We've been with her the whole time," Fox said. "We're ready to retire as well." 

"My mom has always been about family so this was like her dream," she added. "We've even had seasonal family workers where a lot of the family has been here over the last 19 years to help us." 

Community support

Big Momma's has become a staple in the west Louisville community. 

Customers greet each other with hugs, handshakes and stories as they wait for their food. Fox says hello to many by name as they come up to pay, remembering birthdays and asking about other family members she hasn't seen in the restaurant for a while. 

"We're missing y'all already," one man said as he paid for his food. 

"This is my second family, I have two families now," Green said when talking about her customers. "There's a lot who have been with me since the very beginning." 

She said that although she's been recognized through awards and accolades she prefers the day-to-day love from the people who come through her doors. 

"A thank you, an 'I love you' means the world to me," she said. "They may not always see me, but I'm here every day and I hear them. If they act up, then I'm up front." 

And customers had nothing but good things to say about "Momma" and her food.

"When you come to Big Momma's, it's like home," Marus Pipes said. He comes to the restaurant often, this time with his niece Makiyah by his side. 

"Whatever business comes in, I hope it does as well as Momma's," Pipes said. "The community is going to take a loss when it closes, everyone has known about Momma's food for the past couple decades."  

Green hopes that love will continue to the next owners as well.

"Whoever moves in here, I hope they treat them like they did me," she said. "Welcome them to the community, help them out, patronize them. I believe they will if the person who comes in does right, they'll be done right back." 

"This is what the community is down here, they stick together." 

Celebrating 19 years

A celebration for Green will be held Nov. 28 at 1619 West Main Street from 2-5 pm and all are invited to attend to show "show some love to Big Momma." There's also been a GoFundMe set up to help with her retirement after closing the restaurant. 

Those who want to visit, bring gifts or get as much of Big Momma's Soul Kitchen's food has until Dec. 19 when the restaurant will officially close. 

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