The new development on the corner of Frost and University will soon be home to Flint’s newest restaurant, The Poke Bowl as well as its co-founder and Flint local, Jeron Dotson. 

The 2-story building, designed to be a restaurant on the first floor and apartment on the second, is one of the most recent projects to take root along the University Avenue corridor. Dotson, along with his brother Justin Bush, came up with the idea to bring a restaurant featuring the Hawaiian dish, Poke—a mixture of raw fish, vegetables and savory seasonings—to Flint. 

Jeron Dotson, co-owner of The Poke Bowl, is joined by community and industry leaders at a press conference on April 27, 2021. The Poke Bowl will be located on Flint’s University Avenue corridor and is set to open in the summer of 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Now, on the second anniversary of the restaurant’s groundbreaking, Jeron was joined by community and industry leaders like Congressman Dan Kildee and Justin Winslow, President and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging and Association for a press conference.

During his remarks, Kildee praised Dotson and Bush for committing to seeing the project through despite the COVID-19 pandemic having a devastating effect on the restaurant industry.

Congressman Dan Kildee speaks at a press conference outside the new constuction that will be The Poke Bowl on Flint’s University Avenue corridor on April 27, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)
Congressman Dan Kildee and Jeron Dotson laugh inside the new construction where Dotson’s restaurant, The Poke Bowl, will be located on Flint’s University Avenue corridor on April 27, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

“We know how tough it is to be in the restaurant business,” Kildee said. “Opening a restaurant is difficult in any time but particularly thinking about the struggles that anyone might be going through right now, in the middle of this pandemic, with its health and economic impact is almost incalculable. To be able to see the entrepreneurial spirit and determination…really makes a difference and it’s really worthy of celebration.”

Winslow talked about how in the last year, nearly 3,000 Michigan restaurants have closed down permanently due to the pandemic. Despite this fact, he shared his enthusiasm with the small crowd of reporters present. 

“We’re not out of the woods yet but what today feels like to me and what today looks like to me is hope, and that’s the first time I’ve had that in a while…Geronimoe (Dotson) embodies that so specifically…it’s exciting to see that hope is on the horizon and we’ll be here to help with any opportunity we get,” Winslow said. 

Dotson, who said he plans on Poke Bowl opening sometime late in the summer of 2021, shared a similar sentiment to those of Kildee and Winslow. According to him, having the opportunity to invest in the city and be part of the continuously developing University Avenue corridor gives him a sense of pride. 

Jeron Dotson, 28, of Flint, speaks at a press conference outside of his soon-to-be restaurant, The Poke Bowl, in Flint’s University Avenue corridor on April 27, 2021. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

He also said the experience so far and amount of support from the community has been “surreal,” to the point where he still finds it hard to believe. 

“To me, we’re halfway done, I’ll feel completely set when the business is up and going and we can help support the community that supported us. Once the wheels get going it’ll feel even more real,” Dotson said. “I hope the community takes pride in what’s happening here and it makes them want to come back. I hope people start seeing Flint as a place that…has ample opportunities.

Santiago Ochoa is Flint Beat's Latinx Community reporter. He is always looking to write about anything Flint or Latinx. He especially enjoys investigative reporting and human-interest stories. A communications...