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.