Houston’s Have a Nice Day Market brings together Burmese food, halal hot dogs and more

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as outbreaks of violence targeting Asian and Asian Americans spread across the country, Houston friends Brian Rama, Julie Nong, Michael Ma and Isabel Protomartir stood up. felt overwhelmed but compelled to act. Social media was ablaze with activism targeting violence and racism; in Houston, Asian-owned restaurants and local businesses were closing as fear spread.

“We all felt so bogged down,” says Protomartir. Still, the band wanted to find a way to help, “and we wanted to do it our way” – a way that would celebrate their respective Asian cultures.

The four, who each work in public relations, thought together. They knew food would be a central theme and they needed a slogan or symbol that would comfort them. In May 2021, the group launched “Have a Nice Day” – a series of free markets that celebrates chefs, makers and color creators, while highlighting causes or organizations important to the Islander community of Asian Pacific Americans (AAPI) and by raising funds through raffles and merchandise.

People line up at the Pudgy stand at the Have a Nice Day market.

Have a Nice Day Market welcomed thousands of people from across the city to explore various Asian-owned food vendors and businesses.
Alain Castelan

That month, the team kicked off Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with the launch of their mini-mart at Prauper Studios, featuring just eight vendors and pop-up businesses, including the food company Filipino Ube Co. HTX, family dumpling restaurant Dumpling Haus and Filipino pop-up vendor Aleng Nina’s. Protomartir says the group was “blown away” by the support, with more than 250 people in attendance at the first market and vendors selling out within hours.

The title, she said, was an endearing ode to the local Asian community, where “Thank you, have a nice day! is a common saying not only verbalized but also branded on bags and takeout boxes in Chinatown. “It was a symbol of comfort that we all knew, and it felt right to us because food is something that is at the heart of Asian communities,” says Protomartir. “It’s something that binds the four of us and our friends together.”

Over the next six months, the group held four more markets, including holiday-themed and Lunar New Year renditions. And this year, nearly 30 vendors, including pop-up Burger Bodega, TeaGu Cafe, designer cake purveyor Katy Butter Baby Bakery and coffee catering company Fellowship Coffee, commemorated the market’s first anniversary in Post Houston. , exposing several of the growing businesses all owned by people of color or other underrepresented groups. More than 2,000 people attended, according to the group.

But the band Have a Nice Day says they’re just getting started. This month it will host a market at Ion, Midtown’s new multipurpose tech space, featuring Burmese cuisine from MasterChef Legends runner-up Suu Khin, gourmet halal hot dogs from Mad Dogs, and Filipino and Lao cuisine. by Fat Funk. He plans to expand his line of “Thank you, have a nice day” bags, shirts and other items to spread his joyful message and help raise money for the local nonprofit, the Sukoon Foundation, to raise awareness and generate support for those affected by the devastating floods in Pakistan.

A Burger Bodega person decorates cheeseburger patties with toppings at the Have a Nice Day Market.

Have a Nice Day works with Asian food companies, including Burger Bodega, many of which sell out to market within hours.
Alain Castelan

In October, the market will host a special celebration for Filipino American Heritage Month, partnering with Asian businesses like uptown ice cream shop Underground Creamery and Pudgy’s Bakery, which recently launched its first brick-and-mortar store after having operated as a pop-up in several markets, including Have a Nice Day.

“They have played an important role in our growth and vice versa. We’re excited to have a little fun and collaborate with them outside of the markets,” says Protomartir. “And we can’t wait for people to try what we’re working on.”

The next Have a Nice Day open market will be held from 4-8 p.m. on Sunday, September 18 at The Ion (4201 Main Street). The event will take place indoors and outdoors.

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