MEET THE OWNER: Prince Lobo of Addis NOLA

December 2, 2021
Interviewed by Sonali Fernando
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Photo Credit: Justen Williams
Addis NOLA

422 South Broad Street
New Orleans, LA 70119

Phone #:
(504) 218-5321

Q: Hey Prince, where did you grow up and how did that bring you to owning your current business?

I think my story starts with my parents and my mother being born and raised in Ethiopia and my father being born in Angola when they both had left at 14 years old to be educated in Czechoslovakia at the time where they met. It's very unlikely to have two people from such a vast continent meet and merge in such an unlikely place. *sings* They found love and hope in hopeless place. From that, you get two people who come from different situations who end up traveling through Europe, seeing different parts of the world, experiencing different types of racism from Portugal, to France, to Berlin, Germany. And kind of seeing the world from the 80’s European perspective, which was probably one of the best times to be there in any way, shape or form.

They decided to come back to Angola, where I was born. My mother, at the time, was working with AfricaCare and my father was with UNESCO getting paid in USD in the continent. l mean, why would  ever want to leave? As a kid, I had been sick and that was the last straw for my mother to decide to come to the United States and follow a group of friends who had ended up over here as well too.  Having no choice but to continue to pursue her education from January 1, 2000, she ended up getting her PhD nine years later. Literally having no choice but to stay through that system is like an unbelievable story. That's actually a mural of her right there  *points to portrait* making it back home [Ethiopia] after 25 years.

And so it was her dream to kind of take everything, all the sacrifices she made and put it into a physical form and allow New Orleans to really experience the beauty of Ethiopian culture and Ethiopian cuisine. This is her dream and vision. She saw it 10 years before anybody else did.

We've only been here for about three years. At Southern University [at New Orleans] while she was a professor, she had done cultural events and fairs and would always bring her food and would always leave with nothing, after people would tear it up. And from then, I think, there was a point where she decided, “ I think New Orleans needs some really good Ethiopian food’. There was only one restaurant at the time. And then she was like, “I think I want to open a really good Ethiopian restaurant”. And she spoke that with me and my father. He, at the time, was still kind of deep in his career as a virologist. He was one of few out of 22 million people in Angola to have that education. I was in preparation of moving to Denver, Colorado and pursuing my dream of being a commercial airplane pilot. We were not really at one point in any of our lives even touching or coming close to working in the hospitality industry. But we came together for a dream and a vision to really just bring something to the city that we cherish. And so you know, I turned down the offer.  My father was like, “You know what, if we're gonna do it then let's do it big”. So he's now running the back of house, I'm running the front of house, and my mother's overseeing funds and doing all the extra hard legal legwork. The Dream Team.

Q: . What made you choose the Broad Street area and what keeps you here?

Well, I think this was one of the spaces that I think took a chance on us. You come here and you do something in the best way that you can do it and Broad Street will give you a chance. We had no experience in the game. Like we're just coming with a small loan.  In this industry tell somebody you’re gonna open a restaurant for this amount and they’d laugh at you. Can't even do a quarter of what you really need to do or even get started with that amount of money. And we did it.

But [Broad Street] isn’t like going to any other neighborhood. Like in the French Quarter, without that much [restaurant] experience or having that much of a polar network and people don't know about you, good luck if you can survive the first month rent, you know what I mean?

Or even the Bywater. Those places didn't feel like home. It didn't feel true to what we were doing. But being here in some kind of poetic way, on the corner block of where the courthouse is, it's kind of like poetry. This place took a shot on us and we were willing to do anything and everything to bring our dream into fruition. This is where we're gonna make our nest and make this our home and really plant ourselves here to really take off and bring Broad Street with us.

Q: And what does it mean to be successful as a business owner to you?

It's the basics. I think people always like to look at all the complicated numbers and the P&L (profit and loss) statements. But it's like if we're open, we can make something happen. Just give me a chance especially being BIPOC (Black, Brown or Person of Color). You know that too often means not even having the opportunity. Especially coming from specific areas in the continent of Africa, because not all areas are like this. Particularly where I was born if you didn't have a connection, if you didn't know people, good luck ever reaching anything. My people had to leave home at 14 years old, to come back to have a real fighting chance of being successful. For me, I focus on the small things day by day, one foot in front of the other. If I could have my doors open, if I can be here in my space and have my people with me, you can't stop me from there. Everything else is a blessing beyond that.

Q: What is your greatest hope for this location on Broad Street?

I think I see a future here. Even though this started off as my mother's dream, it's really turned and evolved itself into what is possible. One thing that DJ spoke to me about whenever he came in that I think instantly made me connect and resonate with him was ”What in your wildest dreams do you see here?” I  almost shed a tear.  I see everything. Not to be so stuck on actual pinpoints of what I see, but it [Broad Street] is the future. I see future and I see hope when I come on Broad Street. I feel life. What our business tries to breathe life into the people here especially being located across from the courthouse. People come here and see this neighborhood, this corner of this corridor as a neglected place where you don't want to be. I remember people driving me here and I'm telling them [to bring me to] Tulane and Broad and they’re like “You okay, bruh?”. We want to change that perception. We want you to come in and be like “wow, something's happening over here and I want to invest in this area as well. [I want to] invest in the people who make it special and continue pushing this forward, because this place is full of great people and amazing food.”