Restaurateur Quynh “Q” Trinh is closing We Suki Suki and the Global Grub Collective in East Atlanta Village by the end of the year. Trinh says a culmination of factors led to the decision to move up the planned Fall 2022 closure of her bánh mì and pho shop and the food stall market on Flat Shoals Avenue.
After months of struggling to keep the vision for the Collective and her bánh mì shop afloat through the pandemic, lack of dine-in service, and recent threats by and run-ins with customers and food delivery drivers unwilling to wear masks, Trinh says the operating challenges became overwhelming.
“I am not happy. I’m not sleeping. I love a startup and making an idea come to life and sharing it with people. That’s how We Suki Suki started, and then Global Grub Collective,” Trinh tells Eater, who quit her job traveling for Tiger Beer over a decade ago to be home more with her children. “I sold everything I needed to and started this business on $99, two Foreman grills, a coffee maker, and a toaster oven.”
Trinh, who came to the U.S. as a refugee with her family after fleeing Vietnam in 1975, opened We Suki Suki in 2012, selling bánh mì, then pho based on her mother’s recipe from the tiny counter-service shop on Flat Shoals. She expanded into the Global Grub Collective space in 2015, opening the food stall market there. Trinh considers the Collective a restaurant incubator and the vendors partners in the business, only asking each to become an LLC with liability insurance to operate at the food stall market. Monthly rates for stalls average $80 per square foot and include utilities, permitting, and licenses.
But, she says, the Collective only works as intended when customers are able to dine inside, with people ordering from multiple stalls and interacting with the owners who get to talk about their food. Take that away, says Trinh, and stalls must compete for sales instead of working in tandem. Cramped quarters at the food stall market made reopening the dining room more difficult, even amid declining COVID-19 cases. Presently, the Global Grub Collective and We Suki Suki operate as ghost kitchens, offering takeout and delivery only.
“I’ve worked this out in my brain a million times. I want the right things in there. But it’s not going to be what it is now because what it is is now isn’t working after all of the evolutions to this point,” she says.
The owners of Mushi Ni, Poke Burri, Lifting Noodles, DDDelicious Island Cuisine, and M&M Comfort Zone, all currently operating from the Collective, can choose to remain open through the end of the year. Most of the vendors here expanded their businesses to other locations in Atlanta. Mushi Ni now serves its popular baos and Tokyo fries from S.O.S Tiki Bar in Decatur and Little Trouble at Westside Provisions District. Seven Chan and Ken Yu franchised Poke Burri and Lifting Noodles Ramen. Other vendors do pop-ups at restaurants around town.
As for Trinh, she plans to offer bánh mì and pho from We Suki Suki on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for three weeks in December before finally closing a chapter of her life she says helped her raise her children and send them to college.
Next steps for the self-described “serial entrepreneur” include focusing on growing her latest venture: dinner and movie experience Eatavision. Trinh also wants to begin offering mentorship opportunities to teach people how to run a food business, especially immigrants and refugees like herself.
“I’ve been through a couple of wars. I’ve been through a recession, two divorces, one, including children, and a bankruptcy. I have never been through a pandemic,” says Trinh. “I always want to be evolving. This isn’t evolving. I realized I was in a rut and so was my shop and the Collective.”
Trinh promises she’s not abandoning East Atlanta Village or regulars of We Suki Suki and the Global Grub Collective, to whom she says she owes the success of the businesses.
“I want to inspire the art of making food, but I don’t want it to be my day in, day out. That’s not who I am anymore. It’s just time to move on to new ideas, and all I can hope for is people keep following along.”