Community Shocked By Death Of Winston-Salem Restaurateur

Community Shocked By Death Of Winston-Salem Restaurateur

5:26pm Nov 19, 2018
Prime Tyme Soul Food Cafe is scheduled to reopen on November 27. Credit: Eddie Garcia/WFDD

The community is mourning the loss of Tonya Bess, who owned Prime Tyme Soul Food Cafe.

People are sharing their memories of 51-year old Bess on social media, saying she supported other minority businesses, and was a sponsor of the National Black Theatre Festival. Bess previously co-owned another local restaurant - Nitty Gritty Soul Cafe.

Jonathan Kirby of Winston-Salem eats at Prime Tyme with his father several times a week. He says that Bess made customers feel like family.

“She was somebody who we looked forward to seeing," says Kirby. "Every time I saw her we hugged, I told her I loved her, she told us she loved us. If you brought love into her restaurant, she was gonna match that love, if not exceed it. So, I think she’ll just be remembered as a caring, really hospitable person with a big heart. No one could replace her.”

Bess was found a few hours before the restaurant was scheduled to open on Friday, after authorities responded to a 911 call about an unconscious woman. Preliminary autopsy findings have not yielded a determination of cause of death and authorities are awaiting final toxicology results. 

The Winston-Salem Police Department says Bess’s death is suspicious in nature and they are following up on multiple investigative leads.

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