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Monday, March 28, 2016

DOWNTOWN’S NEW BUZZ

Owner credits Pop Up program for restaurant location

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Owner credits Pop Up program for restaurant location

After starting her own catering business, Monique Armand, owner of Sassi Catering, wanted to expand and open a small café with fresh, healthy options for the downtown lunch crowd.

Armand heard about the Pop Up Project created by the Downtown Development Authority, which allows local entrepreneurs the ability to test out their business for a few weeks. In November, Armand attended the event with 14 other businesses participating. There, Armand connected with the three owners of Smokin A’s BBQ and Salsitas Mexican Grill.

Anthony Montgomery, Cassandra Montgomery and Chelette Holden said they were interested in Armand’s fresh-and-local dining concept and thought her food was worthy of their support, so they offered to back her new venture.

“Pop Up gave me the exposure, experience and the perseverance to grab hold of my dreams. I went on many professional interviews during the Pop Up that did not pan out, but the investors of Smokin A’s saw my potential and proposed a partnership that offered me a deal that I absolutely could not refuse. They are great, business-minded and driven people, and I knew that it would work better in my favor to get with their organization,” Armand said.

Anthony Montgomery and his partners have a food truck, catering services and Smoking A’s and Salsitas but decided to back Armand’s plan for a small, versatile downtown eatery.

“I think it’s going to do well. It’s a different approach – very welcoming,” Anthony said.

The café fronts Texas Street in the Chase building, near the downtown library entrance. The grand opening was March 21.

“We all collaborate because they have extensive knowledge about the restaurant business and other promotional and budget areas. I am the chef/marketing/operating manager of Sassi Café,” said Armand, who said she knew the others, having worked in the same industry for years.

“Liz Swaine [executive director of the DDA] sat me down at the end and gave me several important pointers after I told her of the proposal by Smokin A’s company. The majority of the menu listings offered and pricing are based off her insights of the downtown area. The Shreveport [DDA] posts my menu weekly, includes me on their email blasts and continues to encourage me in my endeavors.”

New businesses starting through similar “pop up programs” resulted in $10 billion sales per year in the United States, mainly through Internet marketing.

“Branding Sassi was the No. 1 goal,” Armand said. “In our market you have to have a good name, good following and a good product to make it. The marketing strategy on social media consisted of heavy marketing on Facebook and Instagram with pictures of menu offerings. We do weekly promotions of free lunches if followers like the Sassi Café page and share Sassi Café posts. We also send out email blasts weekly to show promotions and the menu for the week.”

Armand is still enlarging the catering end of Sassi, offering companies and other entities downtown a healthy alternative to standard delivered fare.

“Sassi Cafe offers catered lunches for area companies, organizations and other entities in downtown Shreveport and surrounding areas. We will soon lend the Sassi Café location for private catered events. Sassi Catering offers the Get Fit Meal Prep, kitchen parties, intimate event catering and private chef services,” Armand said.

For a small café, Armand offers variety.

A number of salads, wraps, sandwiches, soups and hot entrees are available, ranging from Mexican to Italian to Cajun, all with an emphasis on healthy, versatile and freshly prepared.

She said she is encouraged by the support she has and hopes to go even further.

– Kathleen Ward

LEARN MORE:

Restaurant hours are 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Indoor and outdoor seating and to-go orders are available.

ON STANDS NOW!

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