LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The woman known as Louisville's seafood lady is testing new waters, despite a pandemic that's drowning local restaurants.
Nichelle Thurston hopes to reel in some new customers.
"I'm from Florida -- from Pensacola, Florida -- born and raised on the Gulf Coast, so this is my thing," Thurston said.
With a sizzle and flair for home boiling hot in her Fern Valley Road restaurant Nichelle Thurston savors life as the Seafood Lady.
"It's been a blessing -- nothing else," said Thurston. "Our food is like a trip to the beach."
The Kentucky Restaurant Association expects the coronavirus to eat up 20 percent of restaurants in the state. Those restaurants would be closed for good.
But in the midst of the pandemic, Thurston thrived. She opened a new location in Lexington in July, and now construction is underway at a third store the corner of South Hancock Street and East Jefferson Street in Louisville's NuLu neighborhood.
"We started out as a to-go business, so for us it wasn't a really large adjustment we had to do," Thurston said. "We kind of just shut down our dining room and rolled right into what we originally started with. That has given us an advantage to not fall beneath the crowd of what is going on today."
Moving to NuLu holds significance. Protesters marched on these streets just weeks ago, lashing out against gentrification and a perceived lack of diversity among the business owners and their products.
"I'm excited to be one of the Black-owned businesses coming to the community to bring jobs into the community," Thurston said. "Black-owned jobs. People who work for Black people that can work for Black people."
"For me, that's really big to be able to bring that culture to the community," she added.
Thurston has come a long way from the catering business and food truck where The Seafood Lady started in Louisville five years ago. The NuLu space is much bigger. There is plenty of space for a dine-in restaurant experience. Thurston says construction will last through November, and she hopes to open by the end of the year.
There is no shortage of support as Thurston fishes for new business.
"The food is so fresh and it's good, it's good," said customer Mary Lee. "It's cooked perfect every time."
"I think it's great," added customer Marcus Brown. "I think she should expand everywhere."
It seems the seafood lady set the bait for a swimming success.
Thurston closed her original Seafood Lady location in Old Louisville late last year in order to relocate to the NuLu spot. However, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed construction.
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