Sylvia Woods, the owner of Harlem’s iconic restaurant “Sylvia”, passed away today at the age of 86.
Woods’ family released a statement saying “the Queen of Soul Food”, as she was lovingly known, died at her home in Westchester with her family and loved ones by her side.
Woods, who drew many entertainers and politicians, including President Obama and President Clinton, to her famed restaurant, had been battling Alzheimer’s for several years.
Shortly after her family released their statement, friend of the family, the Rev. Al Sharpton released a statement saying: “Sylvia’s has been more than a restaurant; it has been a meeting place for Black America.”
He went on to say Woods was “not just a pillar in the community, but her brand resonated across the world and her business acumen helped put Harlem on the map.”
New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg paid tribute to Woods saying in part: “We lost a legend today. Generations of family and friends have come together at what became a New York institution.”
Sylvia’s opened 50 years ago after her mother mortgaged her South Carolina farm to give her daughter the $18,000 she needed to start it.
In 2003, Woods won a New York Post Liberty Medal for giving back to her community — serving thousands of free meals to charitable groups each year and helping ex-prisoners re-enter society by giving them jobs.