The DETERMINED RESTAURATEUR
BY KERRY FIRTH
Sometimes all it takes to succeed is a dream, a lot of grit and tenacity, and the perseverance to push through when things aren’t going as planned. Those traits helped Chivon Hunter turn her dream of becoming a restaurateur into a reality.
The path wasn’t an easy one and there were detours along the way, but in her own words the good Lord showed her which direction to take and now she and her son, Shaun, are the proud owner-operators of Tasty Links in Fort Pierce.
“I’m originally from Newport, Rhode Island, where chili cheese dogs are a delicacy,” Hunter said. “I was a psychiatric nurse for the State of Massachusetts and I knew when we moved our family down to Florida that I wanted to do something for myself.
“We landed in Vero and I set up a hot dog cart in front of a Dollar Store during the day and in front of the Stamp bar at night. Eventually I moved inside of a gas station and worked out of a little kitchen. Through it all, I learned how to make it work without cutting corners. I learned it takes doing things by the book to be successful.”
The family moved to Fort Pierce about four years ago and Hunter taught fourth grade at Young Achievers Academy, but continued scouting out locations for a takeout deli where she could continue to serve her smoked, loaded hot dogs. She found her location on Delaware Avenue and set about building it out by herself.
“My husband is very supportive, but he works in Melbourne so he wasn’t able to help with the remodeling,” she confided. “I had to work it out so I used YouTube a lot to show me how to build and install counters and fixtures. I bought wood and materials and just convinced myself I could do it. I paid rent for 10 months before it opened because it took me so long but I wanted to do this without taking loans.”
When COVID shut down the schools, Hunter took a job as a driver for Uber and Lyft to finance her dream and didn’t let a little thing like a pandemic get in her way.
“I was determined to make this happen,” she explained. “So I took whatever job made it possible to work on this deli and still be at home for my kids and help them with homework and activities.”
She learned about her neighborhood and neighboring businesses through social media and reached out to them to learn the culture. She was embraced with open arms. Tessa of PHATZ Chicken N Shack on U.S. 1 called to say she had 200 buns for her. Michael at Beach Bowls in Downtown Fort Pierce shared a wealth of valuable information. Dawn and Patrick at Cool Beans on Delaware and Robert at JYD BBQ were also part of her cheerleading and support squad who helped along the way.
“Without the help and input from these fellow entrepreneurs, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Hunter said gratefully. “Each one of them has their own identity and were quick to help me establish mine. Now it’s time to pay it forward and help the next entrepreneur.”
Finally, after years of hard work, she opened Tasty Links in August. Hunter, like most people, loves a super hero and sometimes felt empowered like a super hero herself, so it was only fitting that she decided to decorate her deli with comic book posters from floor to ceiling. Each item on the menu is also named after a super hero. She feels it conveys strength to the community.
“This endeavor is bigger than the food,” she continued. “It’s about showing people about love and dedication. We are proud to give back to our community and happy to see them feeling uplifted when they visit us.”
Tasty Links is a walk-up/takeout venue with inviting outdoor seating. In addition to the smoked quarter-pound hot dogs, wings, ribs, sausages and burgers, it serves 16 flavors of ice cream in a cone or cup.
Once a month Tasty Links hosts an open mic night and invites everyone to try to belt out their favorite tune. She recently bought a 21-foot movie screen and hopes to have a family movie night soon.Hunter and her son, Shaun, are chief cooks and bottlewashers of the deli. She learned to cook from her grandmother and has passed her skills on to her son.
“I have a passion to cook and serve people and I got into this business because of my love and caring for people,” she concluded.
CHIVON HUNTERAge: 41
Lives in: Fort Pierce
Family: Husband, Robert; son, Marcel, 22; son, Shaun, 18; and daughter, Pricilla, 9
Education: Community College of Rhode Island, degree in nursing
Hobbies: Singing songs of worship
Who inspires you: “My community and the growth of my community… My God, as my heart is after the Lord and showing other men and women that you can start something from nothing.”
What do most people not know about you: “That I was a psychiatric nurse for the State of Massachusetts for 16 years and worked in a locked-down unit.”