Detroit sisters ready to expand Floods Bar, The Block, Garden Theater
Stephanie Byrd and Cristina Byrd may share the same surname and are co-owners of the family business – a common room full of generations. But how they got to this point couldn’t be more different.
Her father, Michael Byrd, is also a co-owner of Flood’s Bar & Grille, The Block and The Garden Theater in Detroit. But after 40 years, he is stepping down while his daughters helm the show.
Cristina Byrd started in the restaurant business at the age of 10, following in the footsteps of her father who bought Flood’s Bar & Grille in 1988.
Stephanie Byrd was on a different career path. When she was young, she counted change and did other chores in the restaurant. But then she moved to Washington, DC for college and continued to live there to work in the marketing industry. She returned home 10 years ago to help continue the family’s vision after realizing the empire her family was building.
It took the sisters a while to learn how to work in sync with each other. Now they regularly exchange ideas when it comes to business, but they also enjoy each other’s free time.
“We can have a good friendship and I have complete trust in my business partner,” said Cristina Byrd. “Even sometimes, when we disagree about things, I know she has my best interest and that of our family and company at heart. And sometimes she doesn’t agree with me. But we also found that when we’re not in sync, it doesn’t work as well.”
Cristina Byrd oversees Flood’s on St Antoine and Stephanie Byrd oversees The Garden Theater which opened in 2013 and The Block which opened seven years ago. Her father and his business partner George Stewart own the entire block where the latter two businesses are located on Woodward Avenue between Selden Street and Alexandrine Street. This includes office space, parking garages, retail and apartments.
Put staff first
Black-owned businesses have a huge focus on their customers and their employees.
At Flood’s, all managers have worked at the restaurant for more than 10 years. And the menu hasn’t changed much in order to keep a familiar atmosphere and not follow trends.
The Block has a very different vibe with an emphasis on weekend brunch.
And the garden theater hosts large events in its rooms, with a capacity of up to 1,000 people, depending on the type of event.
COVID-19 has brought many shifts for the family’s businesses. Michael Byrd began taking on a role behind the scenes and his daughters had to step in to help with restaurant responsibilities. After the second pandemic-related shutdown, Flood’s saw business pick up again. The demographic of the restaurant also evolved towards customers between the ages of 30 and 50.
“Flood’s is a love letter to Detroit,” said Stephanie Byrd. “And whether young or old, we will make sure we stay the course and stay Detroit.”
Learn from dad
Stephanie Byrd and Cristina Byrd learned entrepreneurship from their father; Michael Byrd also learned it from his father. Michael Byrd started working at his father’s cement company at a young age, doing bookkeeping and management duties.
Before founding his own company, he was an executive at General Motors when the company purchased Electronic Data Systems (EDS). And when the company took over his division at GM, he started traveling to other states. He saw many functions and events around the country but rarely saw places that catered to black people.
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“After speaking to a number of people, it was also known that if it could happen, it could happen in Detroit,” said Michael Byrd. “There would be opportunities and challenges here, so we set about it — figuring out where the niche was for us? What can we do?”
He originally had more people wanting to join him in the new business, but they backed out at the last minute. After speaking to his wife, Alida Quick Byrd, he decided to take over the restaurant. His wife and cousins served as first managers. His uncles have also worked with the restaurant since it was founded.
Now, 40 years later, he says he’s impressed by the way his daughters have taken over the running of the business.
“I’m very confident that they have the capabilities to make this happen,” said Michael Byrd. He said he and his wife would not have got through the pandemic period without their daughters and grandson.
There are plans to expand Flood’s, including some new menu items. There is also a standalone bar that is slated to open in The Garden Theatre.
“Flood’s is family-oriented and we’ve been able to invest in our family’s future,” said Stephanie Byrd. She finds that her father’s goals are being fulfilled. “He did exactly what he set out to do.
“We are the second generation and now we are talking about my nephew who is the third generation. We hope to reach the fourth and fifth generations,” she said.
Contact Chanel Stitt: [email protected]