Three entrepreneurs celebrated the grand opening for their second Dock’s restaurant, this one in Bronzeville, on August 14. The restaurant, located at 321 E. 35th St., have seen non-stop business, according to its owners, Lance Jones II, Keith Pryor and Corey Bradford, three former Dock’s employees.
“Customers have been trying to get us to Chicago ever since our first opening in Country Club Hills last year,” explained Jones, 32. “That’s why this Bronzeville location is ideal for us.”
Pryor and Jones grew up together at Sheldon Heights Church of Christ on the South Side, while also establishing a close friendship with Bradford during their days working at Dock’s.
And rather than use conventional financing like a bank loan to open a second location Pryor said they used their personal money instead. “Let’s just say it cost us more than $1 to open a second Dock’s,” Pryor jokingly said. “This was an investment for all of us and thank God it is paying off.”
The new restaurant as well as the south suburban location at 4011 W. 167th St. has 20 employees, said Jones.
There is another South Side location for Dock’s at 112 W. 87th St, but that restaurant has different owners.
Historian Timuel Black said during the late 1980s and 1990s Dock’s had as many as 43 Chicago-area restaurants and a popular eatery on the South Side. The 100-year-old civil rights leader said he remembers when black-owned restaurants like Gladys, Army & Lou’s and Izola’s were the mainstays when it came to places to eat.
“That’s how it used to be back in the day. Today, everybody is in a hurry and eating on the go,” said Black. “Once that started happening fast-food chains began popping up and today can be found in every black neighborhood.”
Pryor, a former McDonald’s franchise owner for 14 years, said unlike other fast-food restaurants that sell fish, Dock’s has a better quality of food.
“We sell fresh food that’s prepared with love and perfection,” contends Pryor, 55. “Not every fast-food restaurant can say that.”
Bradford said aspiring entrepreneurs should always “believe in their dreams” if they want to become successful because life has many pitfalls and shortcomings.
“That’s the advice I would give anyone looking to start their own business,” added Bradford.
Dock’s menu includes its popular fishwich sandwich, fried shrimp, Po Boy sandwiches, fried chicken, and catfish along with a variety of sides, such as potato salad, coleslaw and French fries. Dinners cost between $9 and $14 while combo meals cost between $6 and $10. Customers can order through Uber eats and Grubhub for the suburban location, and Pryor said soon it will also be available at the Bronzeville restaurant too.
Marlon Thompson, 67, said he was among the first customers to make a purchase when the doors first opened. “I got their famous fishwich with cheese sandwich. And man, I tell you, it was delicious,” said Thompson. “I like the fact that this place is black-owned by three young men. There’s enough Arab-own businesses in Bronzeville and it’s nice to see young men doing something other than standing on the corner hustling.”
Pryor and Jones grew up together at Sheldon Heights Church of Christ on the South Side, so they describe their friendship as a big brother, little brother relationship.
“His [Jones’] father and I are fraternity (Alpha Phi Alpha) brothers. That’s how far back our friendship goes,” said Pryor.