Dozens of people celebrated with live music, food and refreshments on July 31 at the grand opening for Peace of Pizza, 1801 W. 95th St.
Most importantly, the line of customers went out the door, which is promising for owner Tamar Manasseh because she will donate a portion of her profits at Peace of Pizza to Mothers/Men Against Senseless Killings (MASK), a non-profit organization she founded four years ago after a fatal shooting in Englewood.
The opening included much fanfare after a week of gut-wrenching moments. Just days before the opening, two members of MASK were shot and killed, but Manasseh pressed on.
At the opening, she expressed her gratitude for a warm welcome from the Beverly community.
“Today means a brand new partnership,” Manasseh said. “It’s a new partnership between Englewood and Beverly. It’s new partnership between MASK and Peace of Pizza. … I’m excited to see what kind of example we can set for the rest of this city, for all the other businesses, ways that the business community and the non-profit community in this city can work together.”
Peace of Pizza’s menu includes pizza, burgers, pasta, salads and wings. Manasseh said she will employ people who need to improve their basic life skills before transferring to other businesses that MASK partners with.
The days leading up to the grand opening were difficult. Metra was completing construction work near the restaurant, and Manasseh said in media reports that it was hurting the early days of her business and food had spoiled.
The local community rallied behind her by having her distribute gift certificates at the Frunchroom, a live reading series held at the Beverly Arts Center on July 25, and she participated in the 95th Street Farmers Market on July 28.
On July 26, tragedy struck when Chantell Grant, 26, and Andrea Stoudemire, 35, two members of MASK, were killed in a drive-by shooting at 75th Street and Stewart Avenue. Members of MASK have occupied that corner as a way to stand up to gun violence after a fatal shooting there in 2015.
They are also currently building a community center nearby that will help people finish their high school education.
Manasseh said the days leading up to the grand opening were “insanity,” and “lots of prayer” helped her carry on.
Manasseh rallied with other MASK members at the corner on the day after the shooting and vowed to not let violent criminals overtake her community.
Despite that heartache, she remained positive at the opening of her restaurant.
“I still haven’t recouped,” Manasseh said. “I just put on a different kind of lip gloss, and it made me feel like a different kind of person.”
She said MASK doesn’t have to “reclaim” the corner of 75th and Stewart.
“You never leave, so you don’t have to reclaim it,” she said. “You just never leave. You never let the fear chase you away.”
She also never wavered in hosting her grand opening. She mourned the two women, but if Peace of Pizza didn’t open, she felt she would have been a victim as well.
“It’s always in my mind. When people die, it stays with you,” Manasseh said. “But, you have to remember, life still has to be lived. You can’t let anybody steal your life from you.”
Residents, elected officials and members of the Beverly Area Planning Association and local business associations attended the grand opening and joined Manasseh in a ribbon cutting to officially open Peace of Pizza.
Manasseh and others donned shirts with a short, sweet slogan: “Eat a slice, save a life.”
Manasseh had visited Beverly in April to speak at “You Are My Neighbor,” an annual event at St. Barnabas Church that promotes peace and diversity.
Launching her restaurant was another sign of the strong bond she has developed with the community.
“Beverly has been amazing to me,” Manasseh said. “This has been the most amazing thing in the world.”
For more information on Peace of Pizza, visit Facebook.