Caribbean Nightingale: Utah’s first poetry salon connecting the community through the arts

Story by KENZIE WALDON

Poetry is a language that speaks to all different kinds of souls, connecting those who are in tune with the rhythm. A space to express this creative outlet can expand one’s own view to the variety of cultures that surround them in a community. 

Caribbean Nightingale is one such place. This Provo-based poetry café and boutique creates a space for artistic diversity in Utah. Michaëlle Martial, a Haitian-born poet and the creative force behind Caribbean Nightingale, is breaking barriers by spotlighting the mixture of talent that Utah has to offer. 

“Nightingale is a bird I always liked to read about as a teen, you know, from poetry,” Martial said during a Zoom interview. “Then I found out several years ago that the Nightingale was the only bird that sang both day and night.” 

The nightingale’s significance resonates deeply with Martial, both as a working mother and as a survivor of trauma and domestic violence. She decided to name her new business Caribbean Nightingale, the same moniker Martial uses for performing. “When it was time to register the business, I just thought it was a great idea to keep my stage name as the name of the business just because it has a lot of meaning,” Martial said. 

Michaëlle Marital performing her poetry as Caribbean Nightingale during a Relaxation Through Verse event. Courtesy of the Caribbean Nightingale website. Photographed by Tania Luiza Linson.

The business of Caribbean Nightingale began in 2018 with Relaxation Through Verse. This is the poetry salon’s main event that is held in various locations around Utah offering a safe space for multicultural artists to express themselves freely. “The poetry salon is there to uplift the community as a whole but also to help promote local and emerging artists,” Martial said. “We wanted to have an uplifting experience between the community and the artists.”

These intimate events have been stationed in art galleries to coffee shops and attract developing artists from all kinds of backgrounds. Gianfranco Fernandez-Ruiz, a Dominican Republic-born artist, is one of many to connect with Martial at one of the Relaxation Through Verse poetry readings. 

Gianfranco Fernandez-Ruiz performing his boom bap-inspired poetry at a Relaxation Through Verse event. Courtesy of the Caribbean Nightingale website. Photographed by Nicole Tyana Photography.

“Ever since, we’ve been homies,” Fernandez-Ruiz said in a Zoom interview. “I’m just on the other side of that island, she’s from Haiti and I’m from the Dominican Republic. So that Caribbean business, it goes a long way.”

Fernandez-Ruiz is both a poet and a multi-disciplined creative. “I mean, I graduated in English,” he said. “So, I’m all things in the arts, I do nonfiction, I do fiction. I’m a filmmaker. I’m a screenwriter, director, and I do poetry.” With the help of an ongoing Kickstarter, he is currently in the process of creating a tongue-and-cheek horror comedy movie called, “Saborrrr!”

Another performer at the Relaxation Through Verse is local musician Mel Soul. Soul attended one of Caribbean Nightingale’s events and was so touched by Martial’s poetry that she felt inspired to share her own writing and music.

“Michaëlle has kindly had myself and my drummer band mate Everett Spencer connect through her business as one of her featured musician artists for her live stream events,” Soul said in an email interview.

“Caribbean Nightingale offers poets, artists and businesswomen a safe haven for anyone (especially any person of color) to feel safe and connected through the expression of art in all forms,” Soul said.

Mel Soul (left) and Everett Spencer performing as Mel Soul & The Messenger at a Relaxation Through Verse event. Courtesy of the Caribbean Nightingale website. Photographed by Tania Luiza Linson.

Another addition to Caribbean Nightingale’s poetry salon is the TiGla Boutique, a shop and alternative outlet of highlighting the diverse talents that reside in Utah. It’s also a way to honor Martial’s mother, who was a fashion designer and seamstress. “That’s my way of amplifying Black voices, as I was trying to create some sort of legacy for my mother’s memory who passed less than a year and a half ago,” Martial said.

TiGla Boutique retails merchandise from the artists who perform at Relaxation Through Verse along with Martial’s own poetry books and other authors of African descent. Whether it be fashion, music or literature, TiGla Boutique markets the products created by these local artists, a concept Martial absorbed from her mother who was always trying to help women in her own community. 

“I thought I would do something similar to help me not only feel closer to her, but to also help other artists in my community and in the Black community, specifically,” Martial said. 

The most recent addition to Caribbean Nightingale’s business is the blog titled, “Black Joy Is…” This blog enlightens readers on Martial’s individual perceptions throughout her life. “It’s my personal insight as a woman, a Black woman, immigrant woman, and a poet,” Martial said. “And how travel and healing are intersected when it comes to self-care and self-love.”

While Caribbean Nightingale is connecting Utah’s diversity through art, being a one-of-a-kind business in this state still has its challenges. “Well, it’s been a journey,” Martial said, chuckling.

“There are a lot of obstacles that Black artists get into, you know, that is preventing them from succeeding within a business such as Caribbean Nightingale,” Martial said. “And sometimes Black artists don’t know that there’s so many opportunities available.”

But Caribbean Nightingale’s recent spark of exposure came in 2020 when Martial, along with five other Black-owned businesses in Utah, were selected to receive the Comcast RISE Prize. Caribbean Nightingale is the first of its kind to receive this award from Comcast, which generally supplies a business with the materials and technology it needs in order to succeed. 

Since Caribbean Nightingale is a business operated from home and restructured to hosting events virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, Comcast needed to think outside of the box for how this award would be beneficial. The prize ultimately paid for a professionally produced commercial that will air from March to June on various Utah networks and be available on the Caribbean Nightingale website.

Martial is currently in the process of releasing a downloadable poetry album as well as organizing Relaxation Through Verse events through spring and summer 2021, both virtual and in person. Martial said donations collected at these events will be distributed among the performers and be given to local shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness. 

Martial’s dream of Caribbean Nightingale is almost 10 years in the making and has cracked open the artistic diversity that bubbles under Utah’s surface. Her advice to any aspirating entrepreneur who is wanting to invest in their passion is to always be mindful of the process. Or in Martial’s words, “You know, life is short, like our slogan with the coffee station, diverse life is short. Take it one sip, one rhyme and one note at a time.”

HoneyComb Café: A taste of a rising small business that’s using one of Utah’s natural ingredients

Story by KENZIE WALDON

New Year’s resolutions always open the possibility for new opportunities. That’s how Bailey Johnson and her sister BreAnna King felt at the beginning of 2020 when they made their goal of opening a bakery/coffee shop. This was the year they were finally ready to conjure this lifelong dream into a reality.

Then the pandemic struck. COVID-19’s chaotic attack on daily life led to postponement and reconfiguration of beginning the business they always envisioned.

“We felt super bummed out,” Johnson said in an email interview, “but then ultimately decided that Utah needed another Black owned business this year.” 

By October 2020, Johnson independently opened the virtual doors to the HoneyComb Café, a “Black and women owned bake shop,” serving dairy and vegan pastries with honey harvested from local hives by the team.

The HoneyComb Café’s logo, courtesy of its Instagram profile. Designed by Victor J. Herrera.

Johnson initiated this online bakery offering local delivery or pick-up from their new Cottonwood Heights-based industrial kitchen at 1164 E. Hemmingway Drive. Since its opening, the HoneyComb Café has quickly grown in popularity with the use of social media platforms, such as Instagram, and through involvement in the local community.

“We started with a pop-up shop with two other vendors to get our names out there and get our feet off the ground,” Johnson said. She credits their fast growth to “an amazing community of fellow bakers, [but] word of mouth has been what we’re striving for at the moment,” she said.

Menu favorites at the HoneyComb Café include the “danishes and beignets,” Johnson said. These multi-layered and fritter-type pastries can be custom made with dairy or vegan ingredients. 

The HoneyComb Café’s stand-out quality is that it will substitute sugar for honey from honeybee hives that they harvest and maintain. “All of our honey in our products came from our beautiful hives that we’ve [taken care of] for [the last] three years,” Johnson said. 

Unfortunately, due to severe winter exposure, three out of four hives unexpectedly died this season. But Johnson plans to rebuild more honeybee hives this spring that will have more resilience to the ever-evolving Utah climate. “Our hives were so special and cherished,” Johnson said. “We are excited to start a few more this year and work harder to make sure they’re safe for the off season.” 

The HoneyComb Café team harvesting honey from the honeybee hives. Courtesy of the HoneyComb Café website. Photograph by Joe Johnson.

The HoneyComb Café’s delectable goodies have garnered consistent loyalty from its clientele since the beginning. From highlighting chocolate pudding pie to matcha bread on the website, the HoneyComb Café offers a dessert experience that is uniquely their own. “When every customer enjoys my pastries, I hope they are so happy and realize that 3 colonies of Honeybees, which is over 240,000 working bees, are the reason we are living, breathing, and enjoying HoneyComb Cafe’s pastry,” Johnson said.

Johnson reciprocates this loyalty back into her business by consistently considering her mantra: “Always put people over profit.” She hopes to expand enough in the upcoming years to transition HoneyComb Café into a storefront where customers are welcome to stay, relax and enjoy its high-quality pastries and coffee. 

Johnson’s entrepreneurial spirit is driven by the people she loves and supports her — including her HoneyComb Café team. 

“I am dedicated to making sure this business takes off,” said Valerie Evans in an email interview, a baker at the HoneyComb Café and Johnson’s mother. “I’m dedicated to providing goods to our customers, and I’m dedicated to learning everything about vegan eating,” she said.

Evans has been helping Johnson with HoneyComb Café since it opened in October. “It was honestly a dream come true for her to ask me to not only help bake, but to also formulate the menus and try out new recipes,” Evans said. 

The HoneyComb Café’s displayed goodies during a pop-up shop in October 2020. Courtesy of the HoneyComb Café’s Instagram. Photographed by Bailey Johnson.

With this being the first time she’s worked at a locally owned business, she noted the contrast from previous jobs. “It’s so different because I feel like I’m helping achieve a dream while also building customer connections with different kinds of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise,” Evans said.

Tyce Hawkins, the marketing director and customer relations associate at HoneyComb Café, has also been with the business since Day One. 

Similar to Evans, this is Hawkins first time working at a locally owned business — seeing it as an opportunity he didn’t want to pass up. Hawkins said he enjoys feeling viable and not like a “cog in a system.”

“Every week we improve in a new way and the work that we do helps the café grow and connects us to the community in a more meaningful way,” Hawkins said. 

This support pushes Johnson’s drive to further represent the Black-owned business community in Utah, striving to benefit the Salt Lake City area for the better.

If there’s one thing that Johnson wants her customers to take away from supporting the HoneyComb Café, rather than just an experience filled with tasty treats and a new appreciation for the Beehive State’s resources, is “how amazing Black owned businesses are, and how amazing and life-changing honeybees can be.” 

Cooking with love: Sauce Boss Southern Kitchen

Story by ERIC JENSEN

Coming from very little, finding a passion for cooking and turning that passion into a successful business in his restaurant, Julius Thompson is a prime example of the American dream.

Sauce Boss Southern Kitchen located in Draper, at 877 E. 12300 South, started as a food truck in 2016. Thompson opened the restaurant three years later, according to his website.

But Thompson’s love for cooking starts even earlier than that. In between the cold of Chicago and the sizzling summers of Salt Lake City, Thompson was born in Chicago but spent most of his youth moving back and forth between the two cities.

Sauce Boss Southern Kitchen, 877 E. 12300 South. Photo by Eric Jensen.

“Unfortunately, both my parents were addicted to drugs, and I have several cousins whose parents were also addicted to drugs. And just like any decision you make, the consequences don’t just affect you and we were the unfortunate collateral damage of their addiction,” Thompson said in a Zoom interview.

Thompson said that due to his parents’ addiction money went to drugs instead of food, shelter, heat and electricity.

He learned how to survive in the cold dark garages in which he found himself living for weeks and months at a time.

“When you live like that you appreciate any food that comes your way. A lot of the times school lunch was our only meal and we learned to appreciate that,” Thompson said.

He used grit and determination to survive. Those qualities also characterize the food he now serves at his restaurant. Soul food is one of the only cultural originals in the United States. While most of the food within the U.S. was bought here by immigrants, soul food was developed by those born on American soil and based on the culinary traditions of enslaved peoples.

It was a product of being given scraps and having to find ways to make lower quality food palatable.

The food made out of struggle is now being crafted by a man who was raised in struggle.

“It’s food that came from pain and turned into something beautiful,” Thompson said.

That pain exists within Thompson.

“I was alone most of the time. I was disadvantaged and sad, and not much to go for, not much to do as far as nobody gave me time and attention and a creative outlet,” he said.

This is the inflection point in Thompson’s life, the moment that got him started on his cooking journey. He did not allow himself to be dragged down into the darkness. He fought and he looked for allies.

He found those allies in his grandmothers and some of his aunts.

“Growing up it was always a struggle of paying rent, having electricity, hot water and of course with all that food was scarce. So, whenever I stayed with my grandmother or my aunts I was always attracted to the kitchen and all the effort they put in to cooking and serving and making different types of dishes that were near and dear to our family,” Thompson said.

Being in the kitchen bought him happiness. Cooking turned a light bulb on and created Thompson’s soul philosophy on soul food, and his business model, cooking with love.

Julius Thompson, happy in the kitchen. Photo courtesy of Julius Thompson.

“I think basically you’re putting a piece of yourself, a piece of your soul, a piece of your energy, into this food. I truly believe that transfers to the person that’s eating it. They’ll be able to taste all the effort and love and passion you put into it, and in turn it fills them with a bit of happiness, and that carries on to other people they share interactions with, and people share happiness, and it spreads,” Thompson said.

It spreads. Love, happiness, acceptance. If you serve delicious fried chicken, catfish, grits, cornbread, and refreshing sweet tea, they will come and the happiness will spread.

Happiness spreading through food, communion, the warmth of a kitchen, an idea so hopeful and resilient that it cannot possibly be stopped.

Lauren Yancey, the head line cook, sees this philosophy every day, and it is part of the reason she has stayed with Thompson for four years as part of the family at Sauce Boss.

“He’s happiest when he’s serving other people,” Yancey said in a Zoom interview. “He likes going to the tables and talking to people.”

Thompson loves people. He spent hours experimenting with food because of it. At first trying to replicate his grandmother’s fried chicken.

Thompson said at first, he was naïve. He didn’t understand the process of making great food, the step-by-step preparation that can change the outcome of a dish.

From the type of pan used, to the order in which the chicken is breaded, to the fat you use to fry that chicken, every step is a process that can yield different results.

“Being naïve and younger I thought it was just the spices. But as I got older,” Thompson said, “I realized you have to season the chicken before you flour it, season the flour, make sure you fry it at the right tempature, use the right oil and fat to cook it in and all those things play a factor in the overall flavor and finished product.”

In a follow-up text Thompson said the type of oil doesn’t matter as much as the temperature, 350 degrees. He said that keeps the chicken crispy on the outside, and juicy on the inside.

Everything at Sauce Boss is made from scratch, Yancey said.

Thompson’s fried chicken, which he spent years mastering. Photo by Eric Jensen,

It took time for Thompson to create this haven of soul food. It took a painful childhood in which Thompson often went hungry. It took years in the kitchen perfecting his skills. Time experimenting trying to replicate his grandmother’s fried chicken recipe, kept a secret by the family. It took hands that were attached to an artist’s mind. It took cooking with love.

Thompson is the American dream. He is a proud father of five working hard to create a life for his children that was better than his growing up. He is a published author and spokesman about issues everyday Americans are facing and a man with endless drive who is in love with what he does.

That love propels his art, soul food, and will keep him going for as long as he possibly can in the kitchen.

The American dream lives in Draper, in the form of a soul food restaurant whose owner has a passion for cooking with love.

Taste of Louisiana food truck brings Southern cooking to Utah

Story by STEPHANIE ROSILES

“We’ve been all around the world. Utah was our last rodeo,” Helena Carter said. 

She met her future husband, Jerrell, in Germany during their service in the U.S. Army. Jerrell served 22 years and Helena served 17. In 2007, their military service led them to Hill Air Force Base in Clearfield, Utah. There, they retired from the military and set their sight on something else: giving Utahns a Taste of Louisiana. “Louisiana’s food is iconic. Utah isn’t as versed in the culture aspect as other parts in the country. We thought they needed to have a taste of Louisiana,” Carter said in a phone interview. Jerrell is from Louisiana. Helena’s grandparents and great grandparents are all from Louisiana as well. 

“While we thought it would be a good idea, there was also something about bringing this food to an underserved market. They don’t have this kind of food in those places,” Carter said in a phone interview. “The introductory period would be more painful if this was somewhere that people were more familiar with the food. There’s cultural gaps. This is a good opportunity to bridge some cultural gaps.” 

She added, “Taking into consideration that Utahns don’t like spicy food, what we’ve done is season our food well, full of flavor. But not the hot flavors. Even though Louisiana food is typically spicy, we kind of made it less spicy with Utah in mind. The only challenges are that people are sometimes intimidated because of that and won’t come and try it.” 

Jerrell and Helena decided on a food truck instead of a brick-and-mortar restaurant due to expenses. “When you start, it’s like what are the chances that you’re going to be successful? There’s a lot of start-up costs. With a food truck, if you do it right, there’s not as much as far as start-up costs. It’s an easier way to build our brand and test the waters,” Carter said.

The Taste of Louisiana truck. Photos attributed to Helena Carter from the Taste of Louisiana website.

With a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in human relations, Helena was skeptical of the idea. However, she gave in and the couple began working on the project in 2016. The truck would officially hit the streets in November 2017. 

Taste of Louisiana officially began as a tent pop-up at events. The couple would bring a canopy tent to different places and serve food at events and festivals. Carter said they organically transitioned from the tent to the food truck. She said the next move would be a walk-up type of drive-through. “Everything has been methodical as far as financing. We didn’t want to just come out and spend a whole bunch of money and do too much too soon,” she said. “We wanted to let things organically evolve. We wanted to build the brand so we’d have people that are following and continue to come.” 

Carter said they’re in the process of trying to see when and where they could do a brick-and-mortar establishment. “Even that, we don’t want it to be too big. We’ve grown accustomed to doing what we do in small spaces. It makes sense, even if we do a brick-and-mortar, to have it be small. We’d do a walk up type drive-through. No dine in. It takes a lot of manpower to manage a restaurant as far as the labor: cleaning, shutting down at night. It’s too big.” 

Taste of Louisiana has been incredibly successful, popping up anywhere from festivals to the University of Utah’s food truck days on campus. Over the last year, however, things changed for the Carters. “A lot of our annual events got cancelled,” Carter said. “Things that we do every year got cancelled — festivals, heritage days, various cities. We have a contract on base (Hill Air Force Base) and we started there in our tent. They’ve been instrumental in our presence.” 

Taste of Lousiana’s seafood gumbo being served in a tent. Photo attributed to Helena Carter from the Taste of Louisiana website.

Some Cajun menu items include shrimp po’ boy sandwiches, fried chicken and fish baskets, seafood gumbo, and shrimp and grits. Carter emphasized that the favorite menu items vary from person to person, saying, “It depends on who you ask. If you ask the food, the food will say ‘Hey, I’m the star of the show!’”

Carter explained the difficulties of moving away from the University of Utah’s campus, where she and her husband parked the truck any day depending on their own schedule. “We suspended service at the U because we weren’t making any money after they moved to virtual learning,” Carter said. “We shifted and now department heads are contacting us and asking if we can bring the food truck or individual plates to a luncheon. It’s ‘Our department is having a meeting at Murray Park. We want you to bring the truck there.’ People are finding different ways to serve their department. We had to switch up the way we do business.” 

Students at the University of Utah greatly enjoyed the food trucks on campus, as it was an alternative to the restaurants in the Union. Mary Cologna, a business student, said in a phone interview, “I loved the food trucks. I felt like I didn’t have to go eat inside and listen to all of the conversations. It was convenient to grab something quick before class or there were also days where I could sit outside on the grass with my friends in warmer weather.” 

Carter also talked about the blessing Taste of Louisiana has had in having the ability to keep their doors open, saying, “A lot of food trucks work seasonally. We have a presence all year round and it’s been a part of our business model from day one. What are people going to be eating? Why not eat Taste of Louisiana because it is available?” 

Lisbeth Patino, a nursing student, said of Taste of Louisiana, “I like that it’s accessible all year. Especially in the winter, if I’m in a rush, it’s convenient to grab something quick and go. It’s great service!”

Daily location information for Taste of Louisiana can be found on its Facebook and Instagram pages, @tasteoflouisiana. 

Carter said, “What we do is on a restaurant scale. The complexity of our menu is restaurant quality. People say, ‘I can’t believe you guys are doing that on the truck!’ This is what makes our operation unique. When it’s flowing, it’s a beautiful day.”

Some businesses remain closed while others attempt to brave the COVID-19 storm in Salt Lake City’s west side

Some businesses remain closed while others attempt to brave the COVID-19 storm in Salt Lake City’s west side

Story and photos by MARTIN KUPRIANOWICZ

klub deen

Klub Deen in west Salt Lake City’s Poplar Grove neighborhood has been closed since early April when the coronavirus began shutting down the nation’s economy.

Business owners everywhere are getting hit hard by the financial impacts of COVID-19 as hundreds if not thousands are being forced to temporarily suspend physical operations.

One such owner is Newton Gborway, the owner of Klub Deen, a nightclub with a focus on African culture, music, and dance in Salt Lake City’s west-side Poplar Grove neighborhood. 

“Music and dancing are a huge part of life in Africa,” Gborway said in a phone interview. “It brings people together and it’s a great way for everyone to have fun, especially refugees who may be struggling after they move here.”

Gborway is from the West African nation of Liberia. Like most other Americans, he was taken by surprise when everything started shutting down because of social-distancing mandates. His business — which operates on the coming together of large groups of people — was hit especially hard.

“Every day that we’ve been closed we’ve been losing money,” Gborway said. “We had to shut down in the beginning of April because of what the public health order said, and now they’ve just pushed it back until the end of the month. We want to set a good example by following these health orders and doing what the government is telling everybody.”

As Utah’s stay-home directive gets extended until May 1, Gborway can only patiently wait to get the green light to re-open business doors. He hopes that the spread of COVID-19 is reduced and public health orders allow for some normalcy to return. Otherwise, his night club business will continue to suffer financially every day it remains closed. 

klub deen 2 

klub deen 1

A COVID-19 health notice posted on the outside of Klub Deen.

Some other west-side business owners are more fortunate than others. Those who own or operate what Utah decides are “essential businesses” are still able to keep their workplaces open for now. Christine Mason — the owner of Rise by Good Day, a Polish grocery located in the same Poplar Grove neighborhood as Gborway’s club — is still running her store at this time. However, she has had to make drastic changes to the way she does business and she, too, has suffered near-catastrophic financial loss.

“When the shutdown started, I had to close down my catering business,” Mason said. “I lost 98% of my revenue stream with that alone.”

Mason said in a phone interview that times have been tough for the Polish grocery store. As the coronavirus put its grip on the economy nationwide and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert urged his state’s citizens to “stay home, stay safe,” Mason had to make modifications to her shop.

“We’re hanging in there. We’ve had to adapt since this has happened, and a lot less people have been walking into the store,” Mason said. “But we’ve just ordered sneeze guards and a new hand sanitizer station and we’re going to continue to stay open as long as we can. We’re just going to have to take this one day at a time.” 

But it’s not all doom and gloom for Mason. She’s optimistic about the future. She just hired a new chef and plans to stay open as long as possible. “People still need food,” Mason said, and with that in mind she’s confident she can get through this crisis. 

For business owners like Gborway and Mason, there’s not much else they can do besides wait and remain positive and adapt their businesses where they can. They do not know what the future will bring. 

In the meantime, Salt Lake City’s nightclubs will stay closed hoping they can reopen soon, and food stores deemed “essential” will continue to strive to give their customers what they need. As Christine Mason put it, you can only take things now one day at a time. And as time goes by, sanguine west-side business owners along with an anxious nation are all doing just that. 

Rise by Good Day

A pre-pandemic photograph of Rise By Good Day in west Salt Lake City’s Poplar Grove neighborhood.

 

Local pantries struggle to meet the demand of COVID-19 virus in Utah

Story by ELLIE COOK

The hoarding situation that arose upon the arrival of the COVID-19 virus has only increased following the 5.7 earthquake that rattled the Salt Lake Valley on March 18, 2020. While the public hunts across the state for items such as toilet paper and paper towels, pantries in the community struggle to keep their shelves stocked to ensure those in need get the supplies not only needed for quarantine but also everyday survival. The organizations in the western area of Salt Lake City are scrambling to focus on inventory, while also having to serve many more people and adjust their protocols to meet safety needs implemented by the state of Utah. 

The community consists of many working-class and/or impoverished families, many of whom have a yearly income of less than $80,000 a year, said David Wright, director and educator of the Earth Community Garden & Food Pantry, in an email interview. Organizations that provide food security already serve a great population within the area, but the need only seems to be growing. The pantries have seen a significant increase in clientele since The Road Home, the main homeless shelter in Salt Lake City, closed downtown. Now as the virus forces more businesses to close, making the unemployment rates skyrocket and the earthquake damaging some homes, these organizations are struggling to find enough supplies and volunteers to tend to the large crowds pursuing their services. 

When asked about plans regarding situations such as natural disasters or other national emergencies, Captain Rob Lawler of The Salvation Army said in an email, “The Salvation Army has always been ready to respond to disasters and crisis since 1906 in Galveston, Texas, when we first responded as a response agency. You might say it is in our DNA!” 

However, it seems with the cards stacked against the state of Utah, just being prepared isn’t enough for anybody. While toiletries and other health/cleaning items are always in demand, the panic and hoarding issue the pandemic has caused has only made them even scarcer. “We do have an increased demand at this time,” said Kate Corr, the communications coordinator at Utah Community Action, in an email. “Right now, many clients are in greatest need of emergency services, primarily food, housing, and utility assistance. … At this time we will continue to do everything we can to keep providing essential emergency services to our children, families, and clients.”

While the inventory remains an issue, the ability to serve the community promptly has become hard as well, due to safety measures being taken to protect volunteers and the public. This becomes tough as everyone is short-staffed and in need of volunteers. It’s also time-consuming to take on new help because they must be screened to be sure they do not put people’s health at risk. 

Some organizations are no longer accepting new volunteers to protect current staff from exposure. “Our protocol is much more controlled and strict,” said David Wright. “We no longer have lines and instead are having clients with cars stay in their vehicles. Those without cars stay 10 feet away from each other.” The Earth Community Garden & Food Pantry, The Salvation Army and other organizations have also taken on drive-by pickup services. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic having an unknown end, and still in recovery from the earthquake, how can the public get help? Is there any assurance that people can get necessities, and also ensure that nonprofits can attend to the growing amount of clients? “As we see the fallout from businesses closing and people either losing jobs or having reduced work hours, our organization recommends that people consider applying for SNAP (otherwise known as food stamps),” said Gina Cornia, the executive director of Utahns Against Hunger, in an email. Utahns Against Hunger also provides lists of places where people can obtain essential items if they are not receiving an income. 

For the rest of us, any donations from food, cleaning supplies, and perhaps the most coveted item of all, some good old toilet paper, will be gladly received by any local pantry (please see list below). If you require assistance concerning food or other home essentials, reach out to Utahns Against Hunger or any of the listed sources. 

Earth Community Garden & Food Pantry

“We are looking for gardeners for this season. Growing your own, locally sourced food is proving to be more and more vital. Do not harm those around you. As an organization, we extend our services with no regards to; class, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability, gender identity, immigration status, or social/political ideology, and we encourage others to extend themselves and their services (groups or individually) in the same way.”

Utahns Against Hunger 

“The benefits people get to purchase food have an immediate positive impact on the economy and that money circulates throughout every community.”

The Salvation Army

“We are making about 400 meals a day to take home, we are operating 7 days a week.”

 

Santo Taco: a pillar of community in crisis 

Story by PALAK JAYSWAL

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shut down our world, it may be an understatement to say its effects on particular trades will be devastating. From entertainment to athletics, industries and workers alike will not be left unscathed by this pandemic. 

On a more local level, those who are most economically vulnerable are small business owners who rely on people leaving their houses to help pay their own bills. 

One local Utah business, a taqueria called Santo Taco, located in Rose Park at 910 N. 900 West, continues to serve people via takeout orders and curbside delivery in adherence to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic, combined with the added stress of recovery from the Magna-centered 5.7 earthquake that rocked Utah on March 18, 2020, the taqueria provides comfort to Utahns while sticking to the traditional values it is built on. 

The Story 

According to their website, the owners of Santo Taco, Claudia and Alfonso Santo, have been in Utah for decades, and their taqueria has been a work in progress for many years. When Claudia and Alfonso first got started in the food industry, they were washing dishes in the kitchen. Through years of learning skills from the culinary industry and working to build a life for their growing family, they slowly immersed themselves in the art of food. 

Originally opened in 2019, Santo Taco prides itself on its long journey through fresh food and traditional flavors. The journey is one of dedication, family and innovation. The trademark home-style cooking from Santo Taco is adapted in the owners’ way, catering to the vegetarian palates as two of the couple’s children are vegetarians. Modifying these recipes is a remarkable feature considering many Mexican plates are heavy on the meat. 

The menu of Santo Taco has something for everyone — from the tacos, of course, to quesadillas and burritos. There are several popular snack items available as well, such as nachos and asada fries. While the food is delicious, during times like these, it’s not just the food that brings customers to the doors of Santo Taco. 

Community and Crisis 

Rodolfo Rangel Jr., a realtor in Utah, is proud to dine at Santo Taco during COVID-19 lockdown. “We are together in this crisis. If we don’t support each other, everyone will be affected one way or another,” Rangel said in an interview over direct message. 

While Rangel is acquainted with Salt Lake City through his profession, he is aware of the value a support system of a community can provide. “I know the owners and I know how hard they worked to open this business. I just want to do my part. They are a hard-working family and I know they always help anyone in need,” Rangel said regarding the Santo family. 

Rangel is one of many who wants to do his part to support local businesses and families. Steve Kinyon, food blogger behind Foody Fellowship, also marveled at the quality of food from Santo Taco and the sense of stability it provides in these uncertain times. “It’s important to support local [businesses] right now because there are already thin margins,” Kinyon said in an interview over direct message. 

While Kinyon sang praises for Santo Taco on his Instagram account, he also had kind words for the people behind the food. “Santo Taco has amazing owners and operators for their business. They are genuinely great people, they care about the community,” Kinyon said. 

In times of true panic, there are certain things that provide comfort to individuals, like a good book, a warm blanket or your favorite takeout food. Self-isolating is now the norm for many people across the country, and Utah is no different. But what does this mean for local businesses? As the world continues to change on a daily basis, Santo Taco and its patrons remind us of why supporting local businesses — circumstances permitting — is important.

Food is as diverse as people in Salt Lake City’s west side 

Story and photos by MARTIN KUPRIANOWICZ

Rise by Good Day

Rise by Good Day is Salt Lake City’s only Polish market.

The cuisine on the west side of Salt Lake City is as diverse as its people. In a portion of a city that’s nestled between the desert and the mountains, you can find restaurants with styles of food and owners from almost all continents. Because, no matter what corner of the world you find yourself in, you will realize that food is not only a necessity — it is a way of life.

The Horn of Africa is run by a friendly Somali family. When patrons walk into the restaurant in the Glendale neighborhood they encounter intoxicating aromas of east African spices. They might also see someone praying in the corner, depending on the time of day. 

“My mother is a good cook, so it is only natural for her to open a restaurant here. Food is a big part of life in Somalia,” Kabar Gedi said.

Gedi moved to Utah from Somalia with his family 12 years ago. They have owned and operated their restaurant for six years.

The restaurant is located in an industrial-looking part of town. Halimo Omar — the chef and Gedi’s mother — recommended a traditional Somali goat dish served with rice and a spicy, green sauce. Goat has a chewier, leaner consistency than other meats Americans typically eat. 

Gedi explained to a customer that a nomadic lifestyle is still practiced by much of the population in Somalia.

horn of africa

The Horn of Africa had this painting inside the restaurant. Much of the population in Somali is still nomadic. 

“What a car is to you is like what a camel is to us over there,” he said. “And camel milk is very, very good.”

The diversity of food and people in this part of town is easy to see. Just a few blocks south from The Horn of Africa is Rise by Good Day — a Polish market and family-owned restaurant operated by Christine Mason. It is Salt Lake City’s only Polish market.

The shop is a small 600-square-foot unit on the ground floor of an office building in Poplar Grove on Salt Lake City’s west side. The market sells only authentic goods and freshly prepared dishes like pierogi, polish sausage with cabbage, and red beet soup. It recently celebrated its second anniversary in December 2019.

Mason was raised by Polish parents in the cultural hub of Chicago. She moved to Salt Lake City after marrying a Utah native. Mason worked for a catering business for seven years before fulfilling her dreams of owning a restaurant and market that sells what she said is the best kind of food.

“You can cook Polish food but if you’re using American products it turns out just slightly different,” Mason said.

That’s why Mason said all of her market’s food is shipped in weekly from Polish grocers in Chicago. This keeps the dishes she serves, the ingredients she sells, and the pastries she bakes authentically Polish.

During a recent visit, the week’s most popular item was pączki (pronounced pon-shki).

Pączki are the Polish versions of jelly-filled doughnuts, which are less greasy than traditional American doughnuts. The ones Mason makes are so popular that she sold over 2,000 that week alone.

“We had a line in here last Tuesday all day long. I was back in the kitchen frying [oączki] until about 6:00 at night until we finally had to close the doors,” Mason said.

Travel a few more blocks north to the corner of Redwood Road and North Temple and you’ll pass by an assortment of ethnic food restaurants ranging from South American-style cafes to Asian markets. One dining option is The Star of India — a colorful, family-owned Indian restaurant with a full bar, lunch buffet, and a menu of succulent tandoori and curry dishes.

The Kaur family has owned the restaurant since 1990. It was once located downtown, but due to heavy competition, the family decided to relocate their restaurant to the inside of the Ramada Inn four years ago.

Param Kaur manages the restaurant and her father — Avatar — is its chef.

“He’s back there, in the kitchen, all day, every day,” Param said. “He loves what he does, and because of that, the food here is really good. Especially the spinach — you can’t go wrong with that.”

One dish that is particularly popular is the naan bread. It’s a simple flatbread that is served as an appetizer or alongside other dishes, but the way it is made at The Star of India is unique when compared to other Indian restaurants in Salt Lake City. 

Param said their recipe calls for a softer flour and is cooked in a traditional clay oven. It’s a technique that her father has been refining since his youth in India.

So, if you venture to the west side of Salt Lake City with a hungry stomach and an open mind, you will find people who look different than you but have something that everybody has in common — we all love to eat.

 

 

Latinx businesses in the Salt Lake City area

Story and gallery by IASIA BEH

Utah’s demographics are rapidly changing.

Not only has Utah’s population grown the fastest in the country in the past 19 years, but the number of people of color who live in Utah has also ballooned in recent years. The Latinx community, in particular, has grown nearly 15 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census. This coincides with Utah’s growing economy, adding 115 percent more Latinx businesses from 1997-2015.

Alex Guzman, the president and CEO of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, located at 1635 S. Redwood Road, has a couple ideas as to what the reasoning behind the population growth could be. One, that Latinx families are more likely to have more children than white families. And second, internal immigration.

“Internal immigration is one of the reasons,” Guzman said. “When the lives turn tough for the immigrant community in Arizona, Nevada and California, they move up.” He said people are moving from nearby cities such as Phoenix and Las Vegas to West Valley City, where they can find goods and services in Spanish. 

Rancho Markets is an example of one of these services. Founded in 2006, the stores are run by Latinx individuals and the signs are displayed in Spanish.

Está cerca de donde vivo,” said a mom, Rosa, at the 140 N. 900 West location. Through a translator, she said that the store is close to where she lives and it’s convenient.

Looking at a map of Salt Lake City grocery stores, most are on the east side, leaving the mostly brown west side to go to fewer stores such as Rancho Markets. This is a positive if you are catering to only Latinx individuals as there would almost be a monopoly, but breaking into the white market has proven to be difficult.

There are many reasons why that is. One is the fact that many Latinx people haven’t been taught how to run a business in the first place. The Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, however, is looking to fix this discrepancy.

“[Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce] created a program we call the Business Academy,” Guzman said. “In partnership with colleges and universities, every single 10 weeks we start a new program where we train the Hispanic business community on how to do business in the U.S.”

Another benefit of the program is that it helps its attendees learn English. The language barrier can be a huge hurdle when expanding markets to serve communities that don’t speak Spanish.

“Currently we are teaching these classes in Spanish,” Guzman said. “But little by little we are turning the switch from Spanish to bilingual, and bilingual to monolingual. English is the language of business. If they insist to work and serve just to serve Spanish customers, they have a roof in their businesses because we are just 17 percent of the population.”

Programs like these show that there is a cultural shift happening in the state but it still is a majority English-speaking, white area. But with the way that demographics are swinging and with the booming Latinx business economy, the Latinx community will continue to grow in Utah. Maybe, in a few years, English-centered businesses will have to learn Spanish in order to stay competitive. Until then, the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will be there to make being an entrepreneur a reality for Latinx individuals.   

Latinx business owners bringing value to Utah

Story and photos by KAELI WILTBANK

Hector Uribe stepped out from behind the restaurant kitchen, dressed in a white apron and a University of Utah cap. He sat down on a stool inside the lobby of the restaurant his father-in-law passed on to him in 2011 and began explaining his journey toward becoming a business owner.

Uribe explained that he grew up in Mexico and learned the value of hard work from a young age. He explained, “I ditched school when I was in sixth grade, so I was 11 years old when I went to work for somebody else to make money to help out the family.”

Uribe came to the United States from Mexico when he was just 17 years old and started working at his father-in-law’s restaurant weeks after his arrival in 1992. His plan was to save enough money to open up a hardware store back in Mexico. But, he said business owners in Mexico face great dangers because they are at risk of being robbed by the cartel. Uribe realized greater success was awaiting him as a business owner in Salt Lake City.

Hector’s, the chosen name of the company after Uribe took it over, has become a popular Mexican food destination for locals, with both the man and his food becoming iconic elements of the community.

A group of students from Highland High School recently came and interviewed Uribe about his journey as a business owner, he said. They were looking to speak with a successful person in the community, but Uribe explained, “I don’t see myself that way, I just think I am hard working.”

Salt Lake City was recently ranked as one of the best metropolitan areas for minority entrepreneurs to start a business. With the Latinx population becoming the second most rapidly growing demographic of the state of Utah, there has been a corresponding influx of Latinx-owned businesses. 

According to the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, 10,000 businesses in the state of Utah are Latinx-owned and operated. 

Rebecca Chavez-Houck, a former Utah State House representative, is a third-generation American, with her grandfather immigrating to the United States from Mexico. While immigrants like Uribe are seen as successful business owners, Chavez-Houck is familiar with the negative connotations associated with immigrants. She said, “There is this notion of the deficit within communities of color, instead of looking at where our strengths are. Yes, notably persons of color are more within the criminal justice system. We have challenges with poverty and a variety of different things, but that’s not all who we are.” She added, “We are a much more complex community than that.”

Nera Economic Consulting found that nationally, “Latinos are responsible for 29 percent of the growth in real income since 2005.” With successful Hispanic-owned businesses dotting the Utah map, the positive impact brought by the Latinx community is significant to the local economy. The study continued, “They account for roughly 10 cents of every dollar of US national income, and that proportion is rising both due to growth in the Latino population and rising per capita earnings.” 

Uribe spoke with gratitude as he described the opportunity he has had to operate a business of his own. “When we come over here we are happy to have a job. I don’t say it’s a necessity for Hispanics to own their own business, but if there’s an opportunity you need to take it. It’s not as easy to start a business there (in Mexico).”

Alex Guzman, president and CEO of the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, explained to a group of students at the University of Utah, “The Hispanic business community, in the majority of cases, open businesses not because they want to be an entrepreneur, but because they have to provide for their families, so they become business owners with no intention of becoming business owners. But,” he said, “as business owners, they need to learn how to run a business. They need to learn how to file taxes, they need to know how to hire, how to do invoicing, how to deal with customers, how to marketing and sales, human resources, legal issues, etc.”

Offering resources and a supportive community, the UHCC provides local Latinx business owners and entrepreneurs with valuable tools they need to succeed. Guzman explained, “We created a program called The Business Academy. Every 10 weeks we start a new program where we train the Hispanic community on how to do business in the U.S.” 

The rapidly growing Latinx community in Utah has made an impact on the local economy and culture of the state. Resources offered by the Utah Hispanic Chamber of Commerce have become valuable tools for business owners and entrepreneurs like Uribe. His words of wisdom to other entrepreneurial-minded people in the community was, “You’ve got to do everything you can and do it the best you can so you don’t ever feel like you left something behind. The world is full of opportunities and you just need to feel which one you want to take.”

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