Food Truck Entrepreneurs Work To Rescue A South Philly Park

By Ellie Silverman
The Philadelphia Inquirer

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The “Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition” or (SEAMAAC) is part of the effort to bring back a “vendor village” to a Philadelphia park. The goal is to ease access to permits and train local immigrants to become food vendors.

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Zing Thluai sliced her signature sushi rolls and dabbed on spicy mayo sauce for anyone surveying the buffet of options outside the bright-blue food truck she shares with another chef.

Thluai, a 39-year-old Burmese refugee, could see people returning for a second helping at the “urban farm” location deep in South Philadelphia. She thought about how this was an opportunity to introduce new flavors and a bit of her culture to others. And take a step toward opening her own restaurant.

The food truck, which is one part of the community’s plan to revitalize a South Philly park, has now become a symbol of entrepreneurship to other refugees and immigrants, aspiring to break out on their own.

“They question me a lot: ‘How you do that?’ ” Thluai said. “That is already changing people’s mind: ‘If Zing can do that, we can do that, too.”

The South Philadelphia East “SoPhiE” truck, which debuted in April, is owned by the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association Coalition (SEAMAAC), a Philadelphia nonprofit that seeks to revitalize Mifflin Square Park and bring back a community atmosphere that prevailed there before rival gangs had a shootout in 2015.

Thluai, who has been a Burmese outreach officer at SEAMAAC for the last five years, said she is at least three years away from saving enough money to open a restaurant, which she thinks would cost about $100,000 to start. And while she usually cooks in the truck two times a week, she is mostly using this time to perfect a menu, learn about inventory, and get name recognition throughout the community.

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