CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Two Charlotte men made the leap from hip-hop to hamburgers after the pandemic put the brakes on touring.
“Being hustlers, so to speak, being able to create a way for ourselves… that’s exactly what we did, said Monty Faulkner, who fans know as rapper Tigo B.
In December, he, and business partner Lamont Heath, who are both vegan, launched the first brick and mortar Romeo’s Vegan Burgers on South Blvd. near the South End of Charlotte. The new eatery has an indoor dining space as well as a drive-thru.
“During the pandemic we weren’t able perform, we weren’t able to tour, we weren’t really able to do much for music. So, we decided to make a pivot,” Tigo B told Queen City News.
He was forced to temporarily “drop the mike” so to speak, but not in a good way.
The duo talked about opening a restaurant before, but their timetable changed because of COVID-19. Due to the virus, they decided not to start a restaurant right away, instead rolling out a Romeo’s food truck in November of 2020.
“Miracles do happen. Like I said, (Tigo B) and I was just standing in the kitchen saying, ‘Okay let’s try a little bit of this,’” Heath recalled. “We’re not trained chefs— we’re not professional chefs—we just know good food!”
Romeo’s hit the ground running and regularly drew long lines for its plant-based patties.
“You got 60 people standing in line, it’s very unbelievable,” says Heath.
Tigo B’s social media fanbase of thousands of people created crossover appeal in a whole different venue.
“We wanted to step into the space and provide something that not only was fast food and vegan, but it was cool,” Tigo B said.
“Being in the music industry you have to promote,” says Heath, drawing a parallel. “Being in the food world you have to promote. And I think that’s what him and I understood.”
Several surveys in recent years point to the fact that the black community has increasingly embraced veganism. Tigo B says the pandemic gives that trend even more momentum.
“The fact that we lead in diabetes and heart disease and things of that nature, you know as a whole I think we want to be healthier and do better,” he said.
Shortly before Christmas, the restaurant ribbon cutting drew a large crowd of customers, including many who were regulars at the food truck.
“We had a vision, and it came to fruition. All we had to do was be patient,” Tigo B. told the crowd.
“To put something in your mind, and then see it come to light, there’s nothing more beautiful than that,” said Heath.
Heath’s mother Doris, who was at the ribbon cutting, couldn’t be prouder of what she sees as a potential source of generational wealth… and generational health.
“But most of all they’re leaving an inheritance for their children. That’s what means the most to me. So, the word ‘proud’… that’s not a good enough word for me,” she says.
To some customers, it’s healthy inspiration that shows what can happen when you tune out doubt.
“Their career was tough during covid and stuff like that so to kind of pivot and see and opportunity and grow it to what it is now is pretty cool,” said Chris Myers.
“Don’t give up on what you believe in, as far as your dreams,” another customer concluded.
“If you believe it’s possible you can achieve… I’m a living testament to that,” Tigo B rhymed in his song “Possibilities.”
Now those lyrics resonate after opening the doors of a new restaurant.
“I mean at the end of the day it’s faith and belief… not taking no for an answer,” Tigo B says.