Although small in stature, Shawn Whiting lives big in her hustle, grit and passion for serving people.
When the custom sneaker business owner noticed that Grand Rapids had space for authentic Philly cheesesteaks, she went to work.
With support from friends and family, Big Shawn’s Cheesesteaks, 4319 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Unit H, officially opened in July 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Big Shawn’s go-to sandwiches are the Classic and Shawn’s Style. Both start with a fluffy Amoroso roll — sourced straight out of Philly — and a heaping portion of tender, thinly-shaved ribeye cooked in Whiting’s special seasoning.
The classic adds onions with American and provolone cheeses. Shawn’s Style packs an extra flavorful punch with banana and sweet cherry peppers, mushrooms, onions, provolone and famous Cheese Whiz.
The savory cheesesteak eggrolls are a unique take on the classic sandwich and are bursting with rich flavor. When paired with the sweet chili dipping sauce, the eggrolls offer the perfect balance of sweet and salty with just the right kick.
The come up
The underground beginnings of Big Shawn’s Cheesesteaks include setting up shop in parking lots and on street corners.
Following successful outings at events like the 28th Street Metro Cruise, Whiting decided to open a storefront.
Inspired by her daughter, an active member of the United States Air Force, Big Shawn’s Cheesesteaks’ paint scheme dons red, white and blue. The patriotic colors are a salute to the United States of America’s armed forces.
“We’re here for our community, our neighbors and those who serve our country,” Whiting said.
Big Shawn’s Cheesesteaks also supports the nation’s heroes by offering discounts for frontline workers and military personnel.
Bringing people together
After overcoming many hurdles in life, Whiting proudly serves as a positive influence in the West Michigan community.
She said she firmly believes that food brings people from all walks of life together, which she said is critical in today’s polarizing climate.
“I want our customers to feel like they just left mamma’s house,” she said. “I want them to feel like they’re family.”