When the pandemic first hit and the future was uncertain for the hospitality industry, Philly culinary giant Ellen Yin wanted to provides resources for women to navigate the tumultuous times. Especially women in business.
One of those involvements was Let’s Talk, a national contingency of female independent restaurant operators who work collectively to provide and amplify industry-wide tools and resources. Yin became part of the organization through a friend that she knew from the James Beard Foundation and jumped at the chance to hop on a call with other women in the industry from Chicago.
Through Let’s Talk, a question was raised about how to get attention to these women-owned businesses — the solution was a traveling pop-up food fair presented by top female chefs, restaurateurs and entrepreneurs.
Since its inception last year (during the holidays), the Sisterly Love Food Fair cemented its mission as a women-led initiative to promote Philadelphia-based and female-run hospitality business affected by the pandemic by way of traveling food markets.
“The Sisterly Love Food Fair came out of Lets Talk,” said Yin in a statement to Metro at the time. “Bridget Foy, who’s one of the members and host, brought this idea to the table when she was going to bring a market to her restaurant. It evolved to these revolving locations where it could be at numerous places in the city and it would be a way during the holiday season to get attention to these women-owned businesses.”
Yin also explained that although the Sisterly Love Food Fair came out of Let’s Talk, the latter is for brick and mortar venues while the food fair is more for starting entrepreneurs and people who are at different levels in their career. The restauranteur noted that women probably comprise the largest component of small businesses and also why there are so many reasons women, in general, are more severely affected by this pandemic.
“When the shutdown came, as a business person, you had to have very deep pockets to keep it going, because most businesses are 15-to-30 days cash flow. [And now] women are caretakers or homeschool their children or have to take care of the elderly,” continued Yin. “It’s not possible for restaurant people to work remotely from home. With access to capital, women traditionally have not had the same resources and that’s why PPP and some of these grant programs are targeted to women and BIPOC, because those populations have not had the opportunities to access [that type of money]. Or they’re not technically familiar with what’s available and out there.”
Yin approached the Center City Proprietors Association, which is comprised of downtown Philadelphia business owners, along with Tess Hart, Michelle Nelson, Bridget Foy and Jezebel Careaga, and the food fair took off from there.
What was supposed to be a seasonal fix however has become a staple in the hospitality industry that now happens year-round. The holiday season has really picked up business for the organization as well.
The Sisterly Love Collective, which hosts the now-beloved Sisterly Love Food Fairs is celebrating their one-year anniversary with a series of holiday pop-ups at the Headhouse Shambles (2nd Street between Pine and Lombard), dubbed the “Mrs. Claus Holiday Markets.” The event will kick off this Saturday with a tree-lighting ceremony and pop-up holiday markets will occur every Saturday after in December (Dec. 4, noon-4 p.m.; Dec. 11, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; and Dec. 18, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.).
According to a release, each holiday market will feature a mix of new and tenured female-owned/operated vendors. Patrons can shop through a mix of food, drink, home decor and holiday-themed items from an array of vendors including Holly Berry Farms (holiday foliage), the Scrunchie Club, Mother Butter, Kismet Bagels and so many more. A full list of vendors can be found online through the organizations’ website and also through social media pages.
To learn more information about the Sisterly Love Food Fair, visit sisterlylovephilly.com
Metro is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow on Twitter at @BrokeInPhilly.