Welcome to Trep Talk! Trep Talk features some of our city’s compelling entrepreneurs who are boldly building what is uniquely Memphis. The spotlight series is curated by Elizabeth Lemmonds, Director of Talent Programs for the EPIcenter.
Welcome to Trep Talk! This week we get to know Ed Cabigao, co-owner and operating partner – with his wife, Brittany Whisenant Cabigao – of both South of Beale (SOB) and the new Zaka Bowl. While I am a loyal fan of their latest venture, I want to add that I have been going to SOB on South Main since their early days. Memphis’ first gastropub, one of the things I admired about SOB was their social media prowess. Weeks before the doors opened, they were letting followers on Twitter “behind the curtain,” photographing the space as it developed and sharing early menu and bar ideas. When they opened, they already had a curious customer base!
Ed and Brittany have also been incredibly supportive to the local entrepreneurial community. Many a startup networking event has been hosted at SOB over the years; they also graciously allowed Memphis Threat and Hoop City (I haven’t covered them yet, but those who know me understand why those tee shirts are close to my heart!) to host popup sales during Grizz season.
After a few years of dishes like duck fried rice and pulled rabbit risotto (did I mention that they were featured on Food Network?), Ed decided to change his lifestyle. He started in 2014 by switching to a vegan lifestyle, which he considers both a healthy and compassionate diet. Now don’t worry: SOB still maintains a very omnivorous menu. But the Cabigao’s set out to try an ambitious second idea. A more casual space than their original venture, at Zaka Bowl you build a hearty vegan, gluten free bowl of goodness and top it with one of six house-made sauces (seriously: try the green tea vinaigrette).
I wanted to feature Ed here for a few reasons. Creative and effective marketing. Repeat business ownership, including the somewhat risky decision to take this second spot in a very different direction. Husband and wife team. Fierce support of Memphis entrepreneurship. And, well, his reference to the MBTI, love of comics and admission of that guilty pleasure were bonuses! I hope you enjoy getting to know him as much as I did, so with no further ado…
Give us your elevator pitch! What sets you apart?
At Zaka Bowl, we believe that compassionate choices lead to a cleaner, happier, healthier you and planet. That’s why we’re the only ‘create-your-own-veggie bowl’ concept in America that is meat-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, mouthwatering and delicious!
What inspired you?
On February 1st, 2014, I was pushing 220lbs, and my energy was always fleeting. That’s the day I decided to go vegan. I slowly started feeling better and better each day, and my energy levels started going up everyday. About a year later, I was down to 180lbs, and that’s when I started running. I went from running two miles to a half marathon within six months. And I was down to my current weight of 160lbs.
Being able to transform myself through living a compassionate lifestyle really opened my eyes to an opportunity that’s lacking in Memphis. We need more places that celebrate people trying to be the best versions of themselves. We need more places that show that healthy living can also be fun, delicious, and lighthearted. At Zaka Bowl, that’s what we hope to accomplish.