Ann Arbor, MI

Ann Arbor Pop-Up Community Arises During The Pandemic

Becca Ballard

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, lives altered dramatically; for some, this meant a new opportunity.

Those in the restaurant industry, like Jordan Balduf and Gregorio DiMarco, many lost their jobs. For others, like John Moors and Haluthai "Thai" Inhanthong, It meant spending time with family and choosing to leave their non-food careers for a life in the kitchen.

This story first starts when, Inhanthong, started creating a new dish every day as something to do to help from being so lonely. Once she made her first homemade dumpling, she knew she found her calling. From there, she began exploring new flavors, and including her mom, former owner of Thai restaurant Siam Square, once restrictions were lifted and she could return home to visit. Together, the two of them launched Basil Babe, an Instagram dumpling delivery service that quickly grew to unmanageable demands.

Inhanthong was driving 300 miles or more around Metro Detroit on the weekend delivering dumplings to customers. As that got out of hand quickly, Inhanthong shifted delivery to driveway pickups at the end of July while she also quit her 9-to-5 job in advertising to pursue Basil Babe full time. Unbeknown at this time, many others in Ann Arbor and the surrounding cities were doing driveway pop-ups of their own. Through Instagram, each of these now business owners, all connected and created Misfit Biscuits. This was going to be a renegade pop-up crew. This crew shared equipment, systems and processes, labor and would also regularly collaborate to overall each do the best they could using everyone's different ideas and procedures.

As the demand grew exceeding the driveway supply, these driveway businesses took to partnering with local businesses for regular pop-ups. Both Basil Babe and Lucha Puerco have permanent residencies at Cultivate Coffee in Ypsilanti, and other pop-up locations include Ann Arbor Distilling, Beer Grotto, and York Ann Arbor. They’ve even continued to collaborate with others for further opportunities.

Whether it was selling out her first pop-up in under an hour or pre-selling over 400 pounds of chicken out of his driveway for Balduf, each of these owners had a moment where they realized this was more than just a hobby. They have found opportunities from the pandemic to pursue their culinary dreams and create a lasting community that will continue on.

With the world opening up, these pop-up owners say they aren’t going anywhere. There are goals of opening more food trucks and continuing pop-ups in further locations and variety. Don't forget to keep an eye out in your area for food truck pop-ups arising!

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Welcome to a glimpse into the latest local stories, travel, restaurants and more! Most topics you'll find around here are local to Michigan, but I might just surprise you! Grab a coffee and stay for awhile. I hope to leave you restless with the urge to explore somewhere new whether that be a new city or restaurant.

Birmingham, MI
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