Groton - Gervaisa General cooks for her family, which includes 10 children. She cooks for her brethren at Miracle Temple church. She barbecues for students at Connecticut College where she works full-time. And she has a few weddings lined up this summer.
Acts of kindness, all.
General tested the commercial waters in March when she sold wings and fries at the Southeastern Connecticut Home Show in the college arena. She was encouraged by the response.
"I'm always cooking anyway," she said this week. "To keep doing events, I needed a place to work out of."
The General Spot Soul Food Kitchen and catering opened last week at 564 Thames St. The small, bright, four-table setup is walking distance from the gates of Electric Boat, in the city's waterfront district, which is currently undergoing aesthetic upgrades.
"We took it as is," she said of the restaurant. "We got along with the landlords (Charles Holzchlag and Elizabeth Fitzgerald) like we've known each other for years. I liked the building, and I liked them, as soon as I saw them."
Now she's counting on people to like her daily specials, beginning Mondays with oxtails, followed by barbecue chicken, American chop-suey, kielbasa, and the customary fish and chips on Friday. She said pig's feet, ribs and curry chicken will also grace the menu.
"We have our own variation on the famous Love Salad," she said, referring the local fare made famous at the former Hughie's, and still thriving at Muddy Waters on Bank Street in New London. "Ours is called the Pleasure Salad."
Side dishes include potato salad, macaroni and cheese, rice and green peas.
Until recently Ron General worked with his wife in Conn College's facilities maintenance department. When the restaurant idea began shaping up, he decided to use some of his savings to get the General Spot started.
He's also investing his time. They both have food service licenses, as do a few other relatives who will work in the restaurant.
"I'm here to support her," he said. "She's following a dream. It could be a blessing. Anything she needs, I'm with her."
The city officials were with them too.
"The city has been awesome," Gervaisa General said. "They were very encouraging. We didn't know exactly how to go about it. They walked us through the process. Things I didn't know they explained."
City Planning Director Barbara Goodrich said the building didn't require any new permits because the building had been a restaurant in the past. It did require approvals from the health district, fire marshal and building department. She said officials are trying to establish a few parking spaces near the front of the building, which is at the corner of Smith Street.
Assistant building inspector Walt Woycik said the couple was eager to learn and get started in their new venture. He said he is eager, too.
"They're real go-getters," he said. "It's a business of a different flavor, so to speak. I can't wait for Mondays so I can get some oxtails. My wife makes them for me. I love them."
General Spot is among a few new restaurants on Thames Street, including the Mud Turtle Cafe at 245 Thames. Goodrich said the Watch Hill Pizza was just a few yards up the street from General Spot until recently when it moved to 2224 Eastern Point Road, where Eastern Point and Thames meet.
"There's another food-to-go business going in soon," Goodrich said. "It seems when one goes a new one comes in."
Mayor Marian Galbraith says that's a good thing. She noted that a couple recently bought the former El-Kebab restaurant at 110 Poquonnock Road with plans for a new restaurant.
"It's nice to see people investing in the community this way," she said. "This is what we envisioned for Thames Street. It's a wonderful location for visitors and people in the neighborhood to walk down and get something to eat. It's the kind of thing we were looking for, and it's nice to see it happening."