Harlem has lost a thread in the fabric of its history today. Sylvia Woods, owner of the New York City eatery, Sylvia’s restaurant, has died, she was 86.
According to a statement released by the family, Woods passed away this afternoon at her Westchester County home, surrounded by loved one. “Sylvia gallantly battled Alzheimer’s for the past several years, but never once lost her loving smile,” read the statement.
Upon hearing the news, the Rev. Al Sharpton offered fond memories of the owner’s historical location. “Sylvia’s has been more than a restaurant, it has been a meeting place for black America,” he said.
Woods and her late husband, Herbert, opened the restaurant, which started out as a 36-seat lunch counter, in 1962. “I know I had to make it or else my mama was gonna’ lose her farm. So I gave it all that I had to give,” Woods one said in an interview of borrowing money from her mother, who mortgaged the family farm, to get her the funds.
Over the next several decades Sylvia’s, located on 126th St. and Lenox Ave., has grown to become a tourist staple, serving several public figures, including President Obama.
Retiring in 2006,Woods expanded her business to include bestselling cookbooks and a line of hot sauce, barbecue sauce, and candied yams. She is survived by four children, and several grandchildren.
Click below to see some of the famous faces that stopped by Sylvia’s.
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Photo: All Black Woman