Eva Virginia Fullard, co-owner of a restaurant that was a political meeting spot and neighborhood landmark for decades, died Monday at Genesis HealthCare Long Green Nursing Center after suffering a heart attack. She was 67.
Ms. Fullard and her husband of 50 years, Youman, bought the Yellow Bowl restaurant in 1968, quickly turning the establishment into one of the premier soul food restaurants in the city. Yellow Bowl, in the 1200 block of Greenmount Ave., became a favorite of former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and drew visits from rapper LL Cool J and members of the R&B; group New Edition.
The original Yellow Bowl opened in 1921, when it got its name and most of its business from the Yellow Cab Co. office that was then nearby on Preston Street. As the neighborhood changed during the 1960s, the Fullards altered the menu, and the restaurant became a staple in the Johnston Square neighborhood.
"I don't think they thought the restaurant would be as big as it did get," said Venise Steeple of Baltimore, the Fullards' daughter.
Added the Fullards' son, Vincent, of Baltimore, "Nobody anticipated us being in the business this long. Back then, you had a whole lot of African-American restaurants and stores. And we've [outlasted] all of them."
Eva Virginia Knight was born in Baltimore to John Knight and Helen Queene but was raised by a foster mother in Anne Arundel County. She graduated from Bates High School in 1957 and married her husband one year later.
After working a series of jobs through the next decade, including a stint as a sales representative at what was then Friendship Airport, Ms. Fullard saved up enough money to open a grocery store on Greenmount Avenue while her husband drove a taxi.
The owner of a restaurant adjacent to the store was looking to sell his business. After developing a good rapport with the owner, the Fullards bought the business and kept the name.
But the couple changed the menu from entrees featuring Salisbury steaks, meatloaf and spaghetti to soul food such as chitterlings, ribs, collard greens and chicken.
Their venture spawned one of the longest-run black-owned restaurants in recent Baltimore history. The restaurant did so well in the 1970s that the family opened a second location in the 5100 block of Park Heights Ave.
Schmoke ate with his mother at the Yellow Bowl growing up and used the place to cater several City Hall events as mayor. Others ate even if they didn't have the money.
Family members say Ms. Fullard would often give away food to people who were hungry.
"She was very dedicated and just loved putting smiles on people's faces," Vincent Fullard said.
The Yellow Bowl was destroyed in May 2000 by an early morning grill fire. Insurance had lapsed on the building, and the Fullards were forced to invest about $70,000 from their personal savings to reopen the business.
Ms. Fullard, suffering through the loss of her legs and sight because of diabetes and open-heart bypass surgery two years earlier, was forced into semiretirement, her daughter said. The family eventually leased out both restaurants in 2005.
The Greenmount location closed a year later, while the Park Heights establishment remains open. But the Fullard family has no involvement in the restaurant.
Ms. Steeple said she has discussed the possibility of reopening the Greenmount Yellow Bowl along with her brothers, children, nieces and nephews, something she thinks her parents would want. Ms. Steeple and her three brothers began working at the restaurant as servers and dishwashers as children before eventually becoming managers.
After leaving the business, the Fullards lived together at their Park Heights home, where they took care of each other. Mr. Fullard is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease, Ms. Steeple said.
"My mom kept him straight. She couldn't see, but she kept him straight," Ms. Steeple said. "And he just loved her to death. He would bathe her and do her hair. These last couple of years, they were just like teenagers, they were so in love."
Services will be held at noon tomorrow at March Funeral Home, 4300 Wabash Ave.
Ms. Fullard is also survived by two other sons, Youman Fullard Jr. of Newport News, Va., and Jeffrey Fullard of Baltimore; brothers Charles Johnson, Harold Winfield, Wendell Smalls and Charles Smalls, all of Baltimore; sisters Lorraine Hill, Theresa Glover and Joan Ferguson, all of Baltimore; 11 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.