Former Mark’s Carts stand finds niche in catering events and carry-out space
Nearly 10 years ago, what began as a normal friendship between Helen Harding and Blake Reetz blossomed into a sustaining business partnership that grew from their love of food made-from-scratch.
After several months operating food carts at Mark’s Carts and the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, Harding, 27, and Reetz, 31, had been working in the local wedding circuit so much that condensing their business down to one kitchen was essential for the longevity of EAT.
“By July 2011, we had two carts between Mark’s and the farmers market and with the wedding circuit, we were spread too thin throughout Ann Arbor,” Harding said. “It was time for us to start looking for our own kitchen to see what was out there.”
And looking is what they did.
“We heard through the grapevine that Marcano’s was moving out of this space and the owners of Big Ten Burrito were looking for tenants,” Harding said. “We had thought to look at places in Ypsilanti because we thought it would be cheaper, but they just ended up being dumps. This space came partially equipped, so very little had to be done to make it our own functional kitchen.”
They moved in on Nov. 15 as they were preparing for their final wedding of 2011. This gave them an idea of what they were capable of as co-owners.
“It was interesting to say the least but we opened on time with one part-time employee working two days a week,” Harding said.
The daily lunch menu has sandwiches, soups and salads ranging from $6-8, but the dinner specials are usually rotated out at least four times a day.
“We try to have a menu that’s interesting, but still approachable,” Reetz said. “We don’t want to scare people with too ‘out there’ food at a pretty approachable price range.”
While the menu offers a variety from a pork confit (cooked in lard) sandwich to venison chili, Reetz is committed to his food-from-scratch concept.
“We want people to feel they are getting something a little different than what they would make at home or get anywhere else,” he said.
Harding, meantime, said she really appreciates the customers who encourage and force EAT to be creative.
“Sometimes you’ll get wedding clientele who are easy and want all of the decisions made for them within a budget,” she said. “But then we get the clientele that constantly keeps challenging us to come up with something different.”
No stranger to local food, Lisa Gottlieb of Ann Arbor is the force behind Selma Café, a breakfast salon dedicated to the sustainable food economy, on the west side of Ann Arbor.
The creative aspect of the food is something Gottlieb really appreciated about EAT when it catered a 100-guest wedding for her eldestdaughter, Zoe.
“For one thing, they are really investing in sourcing food locally and seasonally,” she said. “Our wedding was outdoors, and the presentation was seamless. The food came out hot, beautifully presented and on time.”
While using locally produced food is important to him, Reetz doesn’t claim EAT keeps to making just one kind of food.
“We’re here to be creative and to experiment with other ideas,” he said. “Talking with customers and clientele through the weddings and the carry-out space will prove to be fundamental in what we offer.”
EAT is located at 1906 Packard St., Ann Arbor and is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit: http://eatannarbor.com.