The glass window on the front of Andre McCain’s first restaurant location reads “Born and Bred” in homage to the area he’s known and loved his whole life. But when it comes to Black success stories in his neighborhood, McCain is not alone. Washington, D.C., according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is a hub of upward mobility for Black families.
“Drive, ambition and talent [are] everywhere,” said J.D. LaRock, CEO of The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. “But equitable access to opportunity is not always there.”
In 2016, McCain founded HalfSmoke — a restaurant devoted to modernizing D.C.’s signature “half-smoke” sausage, a local favorite dating back to the 1930s. Since then, his business has grown to include two more locations.
One pillar of his success, McCain said, was attending Woodrow Wilson High School, a vocational school located in one of the area’s higher-end neighborhoods. But he also said he was enrolled by accident.
“After a few days of [back and forth,]” McCain said, “they finally let me attend. … That [mistake] on their part was quite life-changing for me.”
The staff at Woodrow Wilson encouraged him to attend college, and his high school friends later became some of his early restaurant investors.
Through HalfSmoke, McCain is able to give back to the community that built him. He chose the historic Shaw neighborhood for his location, an area he calls the “heartbeat of D.C.”
“A lot of the Black history really came from that neighborhood,” McCain said.
Watch the video to learn more about one of the many Black success stories that began in Washington, D.C.