FLINT, Michigan — The selection ranges from Chicken Alfredo, Shrimp Scampi, Vegetarian and Meat Lovers. This isn’t a pizza place: This is Spectacular Spudz, where a loaded baked potato is about the size of a football.
Owner Keysa Smith is a Flint native whose heart is filled with passion and determination. Now an independent business owner, she recently was honored by the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce as the Minority Owned Business of the Year. “Flint is a comeback city, because I know all about comeback,” says Smith with a broad smile as she throws sauce over sizzling shrimp.
This labor of love for Smith, who describes herself as “just a girl from the north side” and she displays a strength of character developed over her lifetime that has seen both sides of luck that life can deal. A graduate of Longfellow Elementary, Flint Northern, and Mott Community College, Smith is eager to share how the community brought her success and redemption after it seemed that life was at its lowest.
Smith served four and a half years in federal prison after being arrested for selling marijuana. Smith is unphased from her past and passionate about her future. “I’ve always been a child of God and known he’s had a plan for me. I wanted to really get in tune with who I am, and that’s where I did it,” Smith says.
Smith also taught a class to help other prisoners learn how to fill out financial aid forms and enroll in college. “I was in school in prison even before I got out so, I was ready to roll,” the same proud, broad smile flashes towards the stall behind her with a line forming for the post lunch crowd.
“Here I am, you know, I think I was ready to start my business the same day I was out, and I was like, I’m never going back — but I’m going to go a step further and make myself a pillar in my community,” Smith says. “I want to be someone that people can come to for help and support and be an example to others that you can change your life, because I’ve been able to see it from boths sides.”
Smith was a student at the University of Michigan-Flint when her sister got married at the Flint Farmers’ Market. “Literally I had the idea the next day,” says Smith, who said said Spectacular Spuds is reminiscent of the Potato Patch, a local business she remembers from years ago.
“I just wanted to bring that back, but put my own spin on it,” she says.
There are 18 menu items to choose from as well as weekly specials. And, everything here is made from scratch.
With the business in its third year, Smith says she has only seen increases in sales and profits. “We opened right when the water crisis was at its peak, and with so much going on, a lot of people told me it was the wrong time … but I thought there’s really no good time to leap,” says Smith, who has worked in restaurants for nearly 20 years.
There are many customer favorites but the highest seller by far, Smith says, is her Chicken Alfredo. “Our alfredo, like everything we have, is prepped and made from scratch and I think people tend to appreciate that extra touch,” she says. “Potatoes, they’re pretty universal but also versatile. We take that potato and we make it special — just putting everything on that. People walk away surprised, because they know they’re getting a meal.”
For more information, check out Spectacular Spudz Facebook page