As a kid growing up in California, Greg Peterson always dreamed about owning a restaurant.
“I had a large family, and we didn’t get to go out that often,” Peterson said. “One time we went out for breakfast, and I had the best pancakes I had ever had. In that moment, I knew I wanted to own a restaurant so I could eat pancakes whenever I wanted.”
Peterson laughs now. After 14 years in the breakfast/lunch business, he knows better than to eat that many pancakes. Today, he melds his love of pancakes with his heart for struggling families and people in transition at the Broadway Café in Salem, Ore.
“I love to cook, and I love being my own boss,” said Peterson, who favors fresh ingredients and cooks from scratch.
Peterson’s reputation for homemade pastries, full-service catering and homemade sauces have kept Broadway Café a local hang-out for many years.
In turn, the café offers Peterson an opportunity to minister to the very customers he serves.
“I grew up in a difficult community, and I watched a lot of young people around me get into drugs, die or go to prison,” he said.
Seventeen years ago, Peterson, himself, was “broken and lost.”
“People intervened and afforded me a different life,” he added. “I got put with the right people in my life at the Union Gospel Mission. I was able to turn my life around. God blessed me, and I started giving back.”
Peterson now serves on the Salem Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors. He also works with the Salem-Keizer NAACP and serves on the Commission for Marion County Children and Families.
“Youth are important to me,” Peterson said. “I know opportunity makes a big difference, especially for kids who are culturally challenged. Everyone needs an equal opportunity.”
Peterson believes in providing opportunities and second chances.
“I was in recovery, and someone gave me an opportunity,” he said. “A lot of people we hire are transitioning. People may be coming out of jail. A lot of young people start their careers as bus boys and get their own route.”
Peterson also believes the Broadway Café exists to support local businesses, helping to build a stronger community
“I am involved with the Chamber because we are guardians of our economic prosperity,” he said. “I love Salem, and I want people to eat, shop and live here.
“Salem is shalom, city of peace, but we need to take responsibility and be active about making that happen,” he added. “We all have to be part of that chance. For me, it starts with serving up a good meal and customer service and being involved with the community. That is what we are here to do, serve our customers and serve our community.”
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