EAV's Global Grub Collective brings Buford Highway ITP
Every afternoon at 4 p.m., Quynh Trinh, owner of East Atlanta’s We Suki Suki, packs up her 450-square-foot banh mi shop to make room for one of the many pop-ups she incubates out of her Global Grub Collective. She calls this process — packing up to share the small space — flipping.
Trinh began the Global Grub Collective a few months shy of a year ago. A bright green sign that reads “Buford Hwy EAV” adorns the building’s entrance, a reference to the city’s unofficial ethnic foods district a few miles outside of Atlanta proper. The collective is EAV’s Ellis Island, Trinh says. Each concept highlights cuisine from a different part of the world, and no two pop-ups are from the same region. Trinh has always held a global mindset and looked to represent one when the time came for her to create her own brand.
She opened We Suki Suki on Valentine’s Day 2012 with a modest menu of banh mi: a fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisines presented in the form of a baguette stuffed with grilled meat, tofu, or Vietnamese deli meat with pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, jalapeño, and Vietnamese mayonnaise. Instead of opening a full-service restaurant with all-day service, Trinh opted to open just for lunch, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., allowing her to spend more time with her family.
After a while, customers began suggesting that Q expand her hours to satisfy the late-night EAV bar crowd. Two We Suki Suki regulars who spent their days working at Candler Park Market asked Trinh if they could open an after hours taco stand. In fact, nearly every concept that has come through the Global Grub Collective started with a regular customer approaching Trinh to ask for the opportunity and for guidance. The process went something like, “‘Tell me your dreams. Now, tell me how we can make it happen with what we have,’” Trinh says. The Global Grub Collective is a miniature food hall that offers international fare from various pop-ups.
Trinh sees the collective as an homage to her parents, who came to the U.S. with their eight children from Vietnam as refugees. A young couple in their mid-20s hosted the family of 10 until they were able to move into their own home a year later. Trinh hopes to help provide support for her mentees so they can fine-tune their craft enough to fly the coop and open their own brick-and-mortar stores.
“It's not really my responsibility to worry about where you go. It's about concentrating on you right now and giving you all of my attention so that you can be successful,” Trinh says.
Currently, the Collective houses 13 concepts, most of which flip daily or weekly. Among them are the Midnight Marauder, a late-night concept serving Spotted Trotter dogs; Mamoune’s homestyle Haitian cuisine, featuring chicken or vegetables with rice and spicy cabbage; Chop Chop Next, which serves street food mashups like fusion dumplings and kabobs; and Sunday-only Cuban rice bowls concept La Parada Cubana.
Poco Pomodoro’s Phillip Carney has been friends with Trinh since before she opened We Suki Suki and called her when he retired from his career in education. The fresh pasta concept is one of the Collective’s three permanent partners.
“Q has given me invaluable advice,” Carney says. “From a small business prospective, she really shared everything. While we were deciding on our concept and menu, she was there.”
The collective’s newest partner, brother-sister duo Jared Olkin and Leah Sitkin’s Revolution Gelato, was selling its homemade, dairy-free gelato at Candler Park Market when Trinh tasted it and offered Revolution a spot.
“It's a more exciting and dynamic place to be a part of for us and also for customers. In what would normally contain one or maybe two restaurants, you get five to 20 depending on how you're counting,” Olkin says. “So it's nice to be able to leverage that to help bring in customers for all of us.”
Poco Pomodoro and Revolution Gelato have no plans to go it on their own just yet, but one Global Grub Collective staple, the Cake Hag, is moving on to a larger space this early this fall. The bakery’s Maggie and Katie Sweeney hope the concept that takes their place will find a way to capitalize on the opportunity the way they did.
“It's given us an opportunity to meet many more people than we otherwise would have, to get our name and product out there, and to spend a year as a solid retail presence,” Maggie says.