Small, Fil-Am-owned businesses thrive in pop-up markets across NYC

NEW York City is home to multiple markets, including ones that pop-up once the weather gets warmer. There are also street fairs all over the city’s neighborhoods and some that take place in parking lots and school auditoriums.

Since May, there have been Asian-centric pop-ups to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Some of them spill over to June and the summer months, including the recent Barked Market Market in Brooklyn.

Greenpoint Terminal Market became a veritable showcase of more than 50 vendors selling an assortment of items from food, drinks, desserts, gift items, knickknacks, shirts, and candles.

The event was a gathering of mostly Filipino-owned small businesses from the New York and New Jersey area although at least two vendors, Salamat Cookies and Tabachoy Philly drove all the way from Indiana and Pennsylvania, respectively.

The market’s curators made sure that the products are unique and handcrafted and wanted the event to highlight Filipino culture through street food, clothing, accessories, talents, creatives, hospitality, and street games.

The fixtures remain constant.

Joey Payumo and Augee Francisco of Kabisera serving their coffee and Philippine beers like San Miguel and Red Horse; Paulo Manaid of Hatzumomo and his native Filipino woven products; VJ of So Sarap NYC and the Project Barkada founders – Deirdre Levy, Lugao Kasberg, and Joey Natale Golja of Tito Papa’s in Brooklyn.

“The Project Barkada market has been great. When I first opened my business in 2016, the Filipino community in the culinary world was quite small. To see how much the community has grown has been so rewarding in itself,” returning vendor Jae de Castro of Keyks World told us.

Jae de Castro of Keyks is happy to witness the strides that Filipino cuisine GS made through the years. AJPress Photos by Momar G. Visaya

De Castro said their bestsellers are always a hit in these pop-up markets. Her big hitters are the Twinkle-inspired Keyks and their Kukis. For the Keyks, Halo Halo Pack sells out every time, according to Janice. It contains their ube, pandan with coconut, jackfruit with Fruity Pebbles, and Twinkie-inspired Keyks. Their best-selling kukis are the Levain-inspired mini ube white chocolate chip and pandan with Butterscotch.

“We specialize in childhood nostalgic treats made at a higher level. Our flavors are mostly inspired by our Filipino roots, travels, and life experiences,” she shared.

De Castro is happy to see the strides that Filipino cuisine has made through the years, which is why it is of utmost importance for her to continue pushing Filipino flavors.

“Filipino cuisine has finally made it to the mainstream. It has been amazing to watch and be a part of. As a Filipino American growing up in the US in the 80s-90s, there was not much awareness beyond our community,” she recalled.

First-timers: Pinat NJ and KatMama NYC

Then there are the first-timers like Pinat NJ and KatMama NYC.

Elfie Lim explains the inspiration behind her Philippine-inspired scents like Ube + Buko, Sweet Tart, Bora and Sampaguita AJPress Photos by Momar G. Visaya

Elfie Lim started Pinat in 2020 from her home in Summit, New Jersey. The global pandemic was on and she was looking at ways to relax and take off her mind from stress. She discovered candle-making.

“Making candles at Pinat has served as a much-needed mental break from my daily routine. It has helped me mentally in more ways than one,” Lim said. “With continuous research and testing, we are able to create products that are made with premium, phthalate-free, and eco-friendly ingredients.”

She recently came up with her Filipino line to represent who she is and her culture. There are four candles in this collection:  Ube + Buko, Bora, Sweet Tart and Sampaguita.

KatMamaNYC’s Tetel Tionko-Sauls makes resin jewelry and accessories

“I made Ube + Buko as a take on the classic ube halaya that we love and the buko pie made from Laguna where we’re from. Sampaguita reminds me of the sampaguita garden that we used to have in the Philippines,” Lim shared. “Bora representing Boracay Beach and Sweet Tart is a take on calamansi that we all use and love.”

The “Inspired by the Philippines” line was introduced at the Barked Market Market. All her candles are hand-poured in small batches from her home in Summit and are either made with soy wax or coconut wax.

Pinat is a regular fixture in markets and fairs in New York and New Jersey including the Grand Bazaar NYC Market on the Upper West Side, NYC’s biggest curated market where they also sell car and reed diffusers.

KatMamaNYC’s Tetel Tionko-Sauls makes resin jewelry and accessories

Tetel Tianko-Sauls is behind KatMamaNYC. She creates handmade botanical resin accessories and jewelry. Together with Paulo Manaid of Hatzumomo, they have showcased their products in various markets such as the Union Square holiday market last year. She also showcases her products at Artists & Fleas and Chelsea Market.

Road to Brooklyn: Tabachoy Philly and Salamat Cookies

Chance Anies of Tabachoy Philly shared that they have found a brick-and-mortar spot which they hope to open this fall.

Chance Anies and his team drove from Philadelphia with their food truck with a tongue-in-cheek name.

Tabachoy Philly made its New York debut over the Philippine Independence Day weekend in Brooklyn.

“We’re from Philly, and so we brought our cheese steaks with us and we do a Filipino cheese steak, a bistek cheese steak, and then a chicken cheese steak,” Anies told the Asian Journal. “And we do a real classic traditional cheese steak roll and then we put a Bistek Tagalog on top of that, our house-made Cheez Whiz topped off with scallions, fried shallots, and achara.”

Anies and his team started Tabachoy cart in August 2019, a few months after he began doing pop-up dinners that honored his Filipino heritage. He shared that it has been his dream to open a restaurant so when the opportunity presented itself, he gave it a go.

This fall, they are opening a brick-and-mortar location in the Bella Vista neighborhood of South Philly. He says it won’t be just their rice combos but they want to offer the classics like pancit and lumpia and expand their menu.

“And by having our own space, we’ll be able to be a lot more creative,” Anies said.

Mike Williams and his team, which includes his mom Lourdes Arceo Williams. They drove from Indianapolis to join the PH Independence Day Barkada Market Market.

Mike Williams and his team from Salamat Cookies drove from Indianapolis to join the market.It all started when Mike was learning how to bake from his mom Lourdes Arceo Williams – also during COVID – and one day, he began giving his cookies away.

“I was giving the cookies away as thank yous to folks who were helping me out during covid (e.g. chiropractor, personal trainer) because I had lost my job as a photographer. One day they asked if I was selling the cookies, I said, “uhhhhhh, yup!”, and that was the start of SALAMAT as a business. To be honest, I didn’t know how to bake a cookie 2 years ago to save my life, and now we’ve served over 100,000 cookies since mother’s day 2020,” he shared.

He excitedly shared that they did really well in Brooklyn.

“Brooklyn was a SELL OUT weekend,” he exclaimed. “Our brand new That’s My YAM!™ Iced Ube Lattes were a hit, along with all of our classic cookies — WHOA Philippine Mango™, Space YAM™ (ube), and Buko Pan-DAYUMM!™. We sold out of all those flavors!”n

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at momar.visaya@asianjournalinc.com.

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