Located on 126th Street and Lenox Avenue, Sylvia's Restaurant has become a lynchpin for fine Harlem cuisine. Uptown residents have lost a thread in that interwoven fabric as Sylvia Woods, owner of the New York City eatery, has died. She was 86. According to a statement released by the family, Woods passed away yesterday afternoon at her Westchester County home, surrounded by loved ones. "Sylvia gallantly battled Alzheimer's for the past several years, but never once lost her loving smile," the statement read.
Woods and her late husband, Herbert, opened the restaurant in 1962. Initially starting out as a 36-seat lunch counter, Woods built her empire from the ground up. "I know I had to make it or else my mama was gonna lose her farm. So I gave it all that I had to give," Woods once said in an interview. Over the next several decades Sylvia's became a tourist and neighborhood staple, serving several public figures, including President Barack Obama. Retiring in 2006, Woods expanded her business to include bestselling cookbooks, a line of sauces, and candied yams.
She is survived by four children, and several grandchildren.