Founder of Detroit's popular Afro-Caribbean spot YumVillage held 35 different jobs before opening

Founder of Detroit's popular Afro-Caribbean market pantry YumVillage held 35 different jobs before opening
Posted at 8:44 PM, Jan 31, 2021
and last updated 2024-01-24 09:39:33-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — At just 36 years old, Godwin Ihentuge said he held more than 35 different job positions in his lifetime – from mortgage banker to rock-wall climbing instructor – before opening YumVillage right in the heart of downtown Detroit on Woodward Avenue.

The constant in his life: his love of food. Ihentuge said he started cooking at a young age before his first experience working in the restaurant industry as a teenager intrigued him.

“Working in a restaurant, I just really enjoyed the environment, fast-paced, not the same all of the time,” said Ihentuge. “It wasn’t until working in the field that I thought to myself, I wanted to do something on my own.”

So, after a years-long eclectic job journey, Ihentuge started a restaurant pop-up in 2012, becoming the founder and chief villager of YumVillage a year later.

“I filed the paperwork on my birthday to get out of the rat race,” he said.

Eight years later and YumVillage has become more than an African-Caribbean cuisine destination. Ihentuge describes it as a market pantry. YumVillage sells food, pre-prepared to-go meals, apparel, recipe kits, bath & body products based off of the spices they use in their food, and the list goes on.

You can even sign up for a virtual Djembe class on YumVillage’s website.

YumVillage’s website says it “brings the fastest growing models - delivery, retail and quick-casual - under one roof by paying living wages and maintaining affordable options to create social sustainable social impact.”

And delivery was one element that turned out to be instrumental as the pandemic started to spread across the country last year. Ihentuge said they had to work quickly to get their own internal online ordering system up and running smoothly.

“The challenges are never-ending,” he said of owning a business during the pandemic, noting the struggle a lot of Black-owned businesses are now facing.

Ihentuge said YumVillage has had a lot of support, and they started a Pay It Forward group where they were able to raise $50,000 to pay Black-owned restaurant owners to serve meals to area nonprofits, including Alternatives for Girls, the Detroit Phoenix Center and the Neighborhood Service Organization.

“There’s nothing that can get you centered like a good hot meal with fresh ingredients,” said Ihentuge.

And there are plenty of meals to choose from when it comes to YumVillage’s menu. From the jerk chicken to the wings to the traditional African food, Ihentuge says you really can’t go wrong.

“People go crazy over all of our food, you can taste everything on the menu and you’d be hard pressed to find something you didn’t like,” he said.

The YumVillage website has mouth-watering descriptions on all of the dishes and even opportunities to learn how to make the food yourself.

“We take it upon ourselves to bridge the gap of Afro-Caribbean food — with us, we have to be that education piece,” he said.

6500 Woodward Avenue