Editor’s note: This story makes reference to suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling to cope, call the Suicide and Crisis Helpline at 988.
After losing his grandmother to a two-year battle with cancer, Qua’Shawn King took his own life.
Sharnette King, his mother, discovered his body.
She believes her son ended his life because he could not cope with the loss.
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Two years later, Sharnette found herself in the kitchen, channeling her heartache into meals.
“He was well loved everywhere he went,” she told me in a recent interview. “But I think, as I keep thinking about it…my mother dying really took a toll on him.
“I was okay with it,” she added, “but I didn’t see him being okay with it, [and] I didn’t spend enough time with him, because he was only 16 when she died. I think after that, it was just a whirlwind of stuff, a lot of change, and he was probably stuck.”
While working at FedEx, Sharnette delivered her food to customers, leading to the opening of SkyView22, which began as a food truck, in 2018.
In Jan. 2023, Sharnette and her husband, Terrence King, opened a physical location inside a Walmart in Belmont, N.C.
Before his death, Qua’Shawn took up rapping as a hobby and posted his music on Youtube.
The last CD he created was titled “Sky View.” The Kings added “22” to recognize the age he took his life.
It all began on a FedEx route
Before starting her afternoon route at FedEx, Sharnette would deliver plates of food to her route customers, dropping off 40 plates twice a week.
She cooked turkey, chicken, cornbread, collard greens and rice. Sharnette said she was able to ease her mind from the loss when she cooked.
“And I just started cooking, and then I just stopped crying when I started cooking,” she recalled.
Sharnette attributes her desire to cook to her late mother, who used to make food for their community in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Growing up, she always wondered why her mother gave out free food. Her mother, she said, would respond, “I’m doing what God wants me to do. It makes me happy.”
Similarly, Sharnette said she channels her mother into the restaurant.
As she became known in her working neighborhood, Sharnette wanted to pursue cooking seriously.
The following year, in 2016, the Kings opened a tent at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market.
Sharnette could not sell her usual hot meals because propane tanks were prohibited. So instead, the King’s sold gourmet salads under the name SkyView22: Salads and More.
Business was slow, and the couple grew discouraged as they sat weekends, for hours in the summer heat, waiting on hungry customers.
In the beginning, Terrence King said, they made $40 (and sometimes less) and would take the leftover food to the nearest men’s shelter.
But sure enough, curiosity grew, and popularity increased, motivating the couple to continue. They stayed at the market for more than a year before opening their food truck in 2018.
They added hot foods to the food truck menu — burgers, fries, collard greens, macaroni and cheese.
The pair then branched out to other areas throughout Charlotte and left the farmers market in 2019.
They cooked for their local fire department, the police department and schools and made food for events hosted by Amazon, Frito Lay and Chick-fil-A.
Starting the food truck, the couple noted, was challenging, which often made them want to give up.
“We had our hot-water heater freeze solid because the temperature dropped below 10, and that was money we had to pay out,” Sharnette said.
“And I remember, I think in the second week [of having the truck], our generator was stolen (which cost $6,000),” Terrence King added.
Sharnette, however, is a woman of faith, which, she said, keeps her encouraged. While driving to acquire the LLC registration for SkyView 22, she grew discouraged and was about to go home.
But then she noticed a tractor-trailer in front of her with the words “sky view” plastered on its back.
“Nobody know nothing about Sky View; I ain’t told nobody about Sky View,” she said. “So when I’m ’bout to give up, and I see that…that’s signs; keep going. He got more for you.”
Sharnette snapped a photo of the sign, which she uses as a source of motivation when she gets disheartened.
“I would’ve gave up five times already if it wasn’t for that picture, because we’ve been through a lot trying to get this going.”
On the path to expansion
The couple wanted to give themselves five years before opening a physical store. But in October 2021, Terrence entered Walmart to shop regularly.
As he was pushing his shopping cart, what used to be Subway had now become a vacant space, making him do a double take.
Terrence called his wife and told her about the space.
Although Sharnette hadn’t envisioned their restaurant being inside a Walmart, she began calling Walmart Corp. to inquire about the space.
Covid delayed their original May 2021 construction date, so construction officially began in March 2022.
It took contractors approximately four months to build out the space.
Sharnette brought in local interior designer Fatima Lewis of Sage & Tima Designs to design the inside.
Lewis was referred to the Kings by a client and worked with Sharnette just two months before the restaurant was set to open.
After hearing their story, Lewis wanted to ensure that she designed a space that allowed the couple and their customers to feel at home.
“Listening to her talk about her son and how it was a dark period for her, I think that I needed to bring some joy,” Lewis told me in a phone interview.
Lewis added African art and motifs. Additionally, Lewis said she wanted to bring in durable furniture that could handle shopping carts bumping into them.
The restaurant’s final design includes silver standard-height and bar-height tables and chairs. A black and white motif wall and blue-themed art pieces decorate the restaurant’s interior.
SkyView22 officially opened to the public on Jan. 14, 2023.
A rooftop restaurant is the ultimate goal
“One of the guys in corporate, last week, told her he sees us in more stores,” Terrence said.
The couple said they would be open to establishing a franchise but want to get through their first year of having a physical location.
But, Sharnette said, her dream is to have a restaurant somewhere on a rooftop, overlooking the Charlotte skyline.
For now, Terrence works a the Belmont restaurant full-time, managing operations. Sharnette, still working part-time at FedEx, plans to transition in 2024.
“At first, I wasn’t inclined to put [our story] out there,” she told me, after initially declining to talk with QCity Metro, “you know with it being so personal.”
“But,” she said, “I think when I’m seeing these kids commit suicide, and I think of my son, I think maybe if they had someone to talk to or knew someone’s story, maybe it would stop them.”
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