by Ronnie Estoque
On Juneteenth, Jackson’s Catfish Corner will celebrate the grand opening of its new Central District location at 2212 South Jackson Street. The new locale is in the Community House Mental Health Agency’s Patricia K Apartments development.
“It means everything to me … to be open on Jackson Street and to come back to the Central District where we belong … where we started at,” said Terrell Jackson, owner of Jackson’s Catfish Corner.
The ribbon cutting for the 4500-square-foot space will begin at 10 a.m. and will also feature live music and special guest appearances, as well as a merchandise giveaway. Terrell is the grandson of the original Catfish Corner founders Woodrow and Rosemary Jackson and began working at the business when he was thirteen.
The original Catfish Corner opened in 1985 at the corner of East Cherry Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. When his grandparents decided to close the restaurant in 2014, Terrell chose to continue his family’s legacy. He took over in May of 2015 and renamed the business Jackson’s Catfish Corner.
But Terrell’s journey to his new long-term location hasn’t been the easiest. As reported by the Emerald in 2016, Jackson began by holding a series of pop-up locations in the Skyway and Rainier Beach neighborhoods, which allowed him to open up a permanent space in South Seattle’s Brighton neighborhood at 7216 Rainier Avenue South in June of 2015. In November of 2016, Jackson relocated to a new restaurant location at 123 21st Avenue in the Central District, which closed shortly after in 2018.
In April of 2019, Jackon opened up a Skyway location, which was eventually sold and is no longer associated with the Jackson family. Afterward, Jackson focused his energy into getting the logistics of a Central District re-opening in motion.
Chris Szala serves as the executive director of the Community House Mental Health Agency. Szala reached out to Jackson to develop a plan to bring the restaurant back to the Central District, after noticing that a long term location for the restaurant in the Central District was difficult to maintain. In 2020, The Seattle Times reported that the Central District neighborhood was nearly 75% Black in 1970 but due to gentrification is now closer to 15%.
“I’ve eaten at his [Terrell’s] grandfather’s place many times years ago,” Szala said. “We had offers here from more franchises and all that we really wanted was to make sure that local businesses had a chance to be in [the Central District].”
According to Szala, Jackson’s Catfish Corner is signed into a long term 15-year-lease in their new space.
“This is the heart — this is the Central District. This is where the Black community used to be at, and I know it’s not the same, but this is where we belong,” Jackson said. “I wouldn’t have ever done this without the support of friends, peers.”
“We could have definitely as an organization benefited and made money if there were a Subway here or something like that, but there’s something more important than money,” Szala said.
Jackson believes his restaurant can be a community hub for the Central District, and has designed the space to accommodate indoor dining which also includes complimentary Wi-Fi for customers. He also plans on hiring local young people from the area to work at his restaurant to provide more employment opportunities.
While the location might be new, Jackson insists that his family recipe remains true.
“When you eat my product today, you dip your fish in the tartar sauce and it just brings you back to the original Catfish Corner … the taste is gonna be just like a memory shock,” Jackson said.
Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.
📸 Featured image: Chris Szala (left) , executive director at Community House Mental Health Agency, and Jackson’s Catfish Corner Owner Terrell Jackson (right) stand in front of his new restaurant location at the Patricia K Apartments development. Their grand opening is on Juneteenth. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
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