Purcell Keeling likes keeping it ‘simply’ real photo by Ashley Nash
For close to 30 years, Purcell Keeling, owner of the Simply Wholesome Restaurant has catered good feelings for his patrons.
Having always been business-oriented, Keeling initiated his career with a position in sales: providing local high schools and colleges with athletic equipment. Accordingly, it wasn’t long before he came across the opportunity to bring his true dream to life. Offered the purchase of a nutrition center, Keeling accepted and from there his vision began to flourish. Successfully maintaining the balancing-act of both ventures (equipment sales and nutrition), he desired an expansion. In 1984, this desire inspired the transport to Simply Wholesome’s very first location (across the street from the current address of 4508 W. Slauson Avenue). Two years later, the vigorous enterprise became Keeling’s main focus when he sold the primary nutrition center and consolidated.
For eight years, Simply Wholesome catered to the area providing great food and atmosphere. This resulted in overwhelming patronage as well as a sense of unity throughout. However, an unsightly force would permeate the city of Los Angeles. The uprising, best known as the Rodney King Uprising, sparked racial tension and destructive activity throughout the city. As windows were broken and buildings burned down, word got around to avoid the center, which Simply Wholesome was situated in the middle of. Neighboring businesses reaped the benefits of this concern yet; this same regard was not reciprocated entirely. As a result, when it came time to renew his lease, Keeling experienced prejudice fueled by the uprising.
With much reflection, he decided upon seeking ownership of the current lot. “It was as if the blinders were removed. This location shone so bright from where I was. I gained an even greater understanding of the importance of ownership,” Keeling stated. In 1995, the motivated owner relocated and thrived. Continuing to provide opportunities for the ‘different’ teens and young adults of the area, among other acts, Keeling preserved his reputation. “I employ kids that other people wouldn’t hire, and they do a great job. That’s one of the many positives of owning your own place.”
Setting him apart even further, Keeling takes pride in the healthy food provided while also embracing the African heritage-inspired décor, music and feel of home apparent within the location. While in consequence, Keeling has experienced ridicule along with the pressure of doing 150% (as a black male, business owner), he still feels inspired and as if he made the right decision. “I knew I made the right decision when I could do what I wanted to do. Owning my own business and owning the property…having full control…being my own boss…that makes me happy.” Serving as a role model for upcoming African-American entrepreneurs, Keeling stresses his feelings of freedom. “As Blacks we don’t go after ownership as often as we should…maybe because it’s more expensive, but it pays off in the long run.”
Keeling has enjoyed the fruits of his labor in addition to the many visits from former employees that he helped along the way. Knowing he made such an impact on their lives as well as on that of the community, his appreciation and diligence are unquestionably evident. However, it was in his childhood that the Los Angeles native learned the real meaning of hard work. As a member of the third family to move into the city of Inglewood, listening to both conversations (from Blacks and Whites) regarding tension and relocation, Keeling remained motivated, unaffected by the dynamics of his surroundings.
Attending Morningside High School, Keeling began to fine-tune his gift of long distance running. Blessed with the opportunity to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, he joined the track team. With a degree in economics and sociology, he began teaching in the schools he attended as a child. Now a divorced father of two young ladies, Keeling has gained an appreciation for staying true to who he is and following the path of his career. “I believe what I’ve created here has touched all kinds of people and it’s a good feeling…to see people having a good time, chillin’ in my house.”
In accordance with his ‘Tree of Life’ logo, Keeling encourages youth and others to believe in themselves reach for the stars and grab all the fruit that life has to offer…whatever that may be.” The grateful, prosperous business owner recently celebrated his daughter’s graduation from college. May his life and those that he touches continue to be simply wholesome.