Visitors to Sweet Peaches restaurant know they can count on friendly service, home-cooked food and Pamela Haines’ frequent laugh at the 4-year-old business.
But Haines is more than simply the operator of a restaurant. She’s known throughout the neighborhood for her efforts to improve the lives of her neighbors, from providing meals for those in need to establishing a regular movie night so kids have something to do.
And it’s a rare day when the restaurant at 18th Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard isn’t packed with workers from nearby businesses.
“Cooking has always been a hobby, and I guess I’m pretty good at it,” says Haines, who grew up blocks away from Sweet Peaches and still lives nearby. “I started out with Sweet Peaches as a bakery to help make money for school. People started asking for hot food and breakfast. The demand became overwhelming, and the neighborhood really embraced it.”
But there’s a lot more to Haines’ story. The mother of three earned an associate’s, a bachelor’s, and a master’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan University in Conflict Management and Business Management, and now she has her sights set on a Ph.D.
Her higher education pursuits began early, when she accepted a track scholarship to Western Kentucky University. But that lasted only a semester, as Haines was homesick for the West End.
“I came from a large family and we never knew the value of education,” she says. “I went to Western but I was homesick and I came home and got married.”
Still, that didn’t deter Haines from pursuing her education, even while raising three children. She was married for 22 years, and says her ex-husband is still a part of her life. Of her children, only her son, Anthony, 32, works in the business. He manages the kitchen, but Haines jokes that her daughters didn’t take to cooking.
Haines, 53, says she has always cared about the children in the neighborhood, many of whom came from families who can’t afford necessities, much less outings like going to the movies. That’s why she started showing movies last year in a vacant lot behind Sweet Peaches on Friday nights, inviting area children to attend. The idea caught on, prompting executives from Fourth Street Live! to donate a projector, a screen, and a popcorn machine.
“I’d always see these kids walking around with nothing to do, so I’d tell them to come in a get a cookie,” she says. “If their clothes were dirty, I’d take them and wash them a give them back the next day. So the kids seem to like it.”