LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Barry Washington has always hustled.
“Yeah I used to sell drugs and became a drug addict -- heroin and cocaine,” Washington said. “Somebody said, ‘What did you think your future was?’ I said, ‘Either I was going to do life in prison for murder or I was going to be murdered.’ I was a criminal. That was my life, so when you’re stuck in that life, you don’t think of anything else.”
That was the case until 1995. Washington turned his 20 years of hustling on the streets of Philadelphia into a new grind. His former boss looked beyond his past and gave him a chance making the best-sellers at an Italian restaurant -- cheesesteaks. He moved to Louisville to reconnect with his soul and cultivate his faith.
“God kept me here,” Washington said. “I got stuck.”
With doubters in his rear view, Washington opened the first Barry’s Cheesesteaks and More location on Preston Highway in 2013. Then, he opened his second location on South 2nd Street in Old Louisville. He now has two more on the way -- one on Bardstown Road and another in Elizabethtown.
“We want people to understand that Barry’s is not just cheesesteaks,” Washington said. “It’s about changing lives. It’s about giving people an opportunity. If an ex-drug addict like me can own restaurants, I believe everyone has a gift and talent to do something. You don’t have to settle for less. You can think big.”