'Smorgasburg' on Serious Eats
In just three years, Smorgasburg has far outgrown its modest origins in the East River State Park. After planting roots in Dumbo, co-founders Eric Demby and Jonathan Butler secured a partnership with Whole Foods, launched Smorasburg in the South Street Seaport, expanded to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia (where they opened a satellite of sister market Brooklyn Flea), and inked a deal to become part of the new Essex Crossing development. What's next for the market? Organizer Eric Demby tells us.
Don't let the frenzy created by Keizo Shimamoto's ramen burger distract you from Sun Noodle Lab's core mission of spreading the gospel of ramen at Smorgasburg. The stand, as we explored in a previous column, functions as an incubator for aspiring ramen-yas looking to open up their own shop. But in their push to introduce Americans to a greater variety of ramen styles, they're exploring what regional ramen identity means here in New York.
In this column we've written about the experiences and perspectives of a diverse set of Smorgasburg vendors, some established and others nascent, from a purveyor of new school American-Jewish food to a ramen incubator and an Israeli couple looking to bring real couscous to New York. We've shared their struggles, evolution, and thoughts on why they're participating in the sometimes grueling market. But what about the other side? In July, we spoke with market co-founder Eric Demby about the origins of Smorgasburg and what he looks for in potential vendors.
While farmer Eric Rozendale doesn't see Rockville's wares at Smorgasburg to be a brand new path, his participation at the market offers a model for farmers looking to both expand their presence and add value to their crops.
Smorgasburg is home to more than new entrepreneurs starting out their companies; it's also an outlet for business looking to educate a new audience about their food. Here are two of them.
The White Moustache, a yogurt vendor at Smorgasburg, actually got its start in California until archaic dairy laws forced her to close up shop. Now entrepreneur Homa Dashtaki has turned yogurt into a full-time job thanks to her success at the market.
As we wrote in last week's column, co-owner Shiv Puri's business acumen in banking and finance has been fundamental to Bombay Sandwich Co.'s pursuit of a brick and mortar location. But just as important to their success here, they would be quick to tell you, have been their mentors.
As Bombay Sandwich Co. would tell it, capitalizing on your off season is vital to the success of a Smorgasburg vendor. This is particularly true for vendors with ambitions of going brick and mortar, for whom juggling a grueling real estate market with the commitment Smorgasburg demands would be overwhelming.
A sophomore stand peddling homespun, vegetarian Indian fare, Bombay Sandwich Co. was born out of love and frustration. Founded by Shikha Jain, a native of Delhi, and Shiv Puri, who grew up in Parsippany, New Jersey, the mom-and-pop business was inspired by their mutual love for the sandwich that it is named for. But frustration was no less essential. The team has taken both of these impulses to build a successful stand at Smorgasburg with their own following.
Smorgasburg is by no means a cheap venture, nor a cash cow, and for even the most popular and critically acclaimed new vendors, breaking even is the best you can hope for most weeks. That means you'll need another way to pay for the market, which seldom pays for itself. A dependable income outside of the market is a necessary evil, but also a path to other opportunities.
The first year Smorgasburg vendor NY Shuk has adopted an evolutionary strategy to the outdoor market: streamline your products to keep your brand as focused as possible.
Summer is in session at Smorgasburg, and with the increased crowds come a new set of obstacles to overcome. Chiefly, adjusting the menu to accommodate the heat, something that Noah immediately realized he'd need to do. Beginning vendors need to consider how their menu items will be received over the course of a season, not just the first few weeks of spring.
Three weeks ago, we talked about the psychological and physical stress of running and funding a Smorgasburg pop up. But what are the stresses of losing business to a streak of bad weather?
When a single lost market day accounts for 1/12th of your income, a rained out Smorgasburg is a hard setback to swallow. Two, as the market saw recently, are even harder.
Ron and Leetal Arazi love couscous, and they want you to. Their Smorgasburg stall, NYShuk, is a paean to the culinary traditions of North African and Middle Eastern Jews.
Thus far in this miniseries, we've kept the focus strictly on Noah's experience fine tuning his menu, figuring out his identity in the marketplace, and other logistical issues. What we've spent less time exploring are the psychological and physical tolls of running a stand at Smorgasburg; something that Noah—as the sole proprietor of Scharf & Zoyer—experiences acutely.
As Scharf & Zoyer begins to settle into a groove at Smorgasburg, its owner has to start figuring out: how much food do I need to make? And how can I do it while turning a profit?
The re-opening of Smorgasburg has brought a dizzying array of new vendors selling food products you didn't know you wanted: Teriyaki balls! Chicken burgers! Bite-size cheesecakes! Amid them all, it's great to discover a vendor offering something that we really need: great bagels made by a top-flight baker.