Enjoy a nice day market that invites Houston to explore the Asian-owned food business

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when waves of violence targeting Asian and Asian Americans spread across the country, Houston friends Brian Rama, Julie Nong, Michael Ma and Isabel Protomarter felt overwhelmed but compelled to work. Social media has been ignited with activity targeting violence and racism; Inside Houston, local Asian-owned restaurants and businesses were closing as fear spread.

“We were all feeling very overwhelmed,” Protomartier says. However, the group wanted to find a way to help, and “we wanted to do it our way” – a way that would celebrate their respective Asian cultures.

The four, each working in public relations, put their heads together. They knew that food would be a central theme, and that they needed a logo or symbol that provided comfort. In May 2021, the group launched “I wish you a happy day“–A duty free market chain that celebrates chefs, makers, and creators of color, while also highlighting important causes or organizations for the Asian American Pacific Islands (AAPI) community and raising money through raffles and merchandise.

People line up at Pudgy's booth at Have a Nice Day Market.

The Have a Nice Day Market welcomed thousands of people from all over the city to explore the various food vendors and Asian-owned businesses.
Alain Castellane

That month, the team started Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month With the debut of their small market at Prauper Studios, which features just eight vendors and spin-offs including Filipino food company Ube Co. HTX, family-owned dumpling restaurant Dumpling Haus, and pop-up Filipino supplier Aleng Nina’s. Protomartir says the group was “surprised” with the support, with more than 250 people attending the first market and sellers selling out within hours.

She says the title was a beloved poem to the local Asian community, where “Thank you, have a nice day!” It’s a common saying not only word of mouth but branded on takeaway bags and boxes all over Chinatown. “It was a symbol of comfort that we all knew, and we felt so OK because food is something that is at the heart of Asian communities,” says Protomartier. “It’s something that ties the four of us and our friends together.”

In the next six months, the group hosted four more markets, including holiday and Lunar New Year specials. And this year, nearly 30 sellers, including Smashburger pop-up Bodega BurgerAnd the TeaGu . CaféKatie’s cake designer Better Baby Bakeryand coffee catering company coffee fellowship, celebrated the first anniversary of the market in Post Houston, giving rise to several growing companies owned by all people of color or other underrepresented groups. The group says more than 2,000 people attended.

But the Have a Nice Day group says it’s only just getting started. This month, it will host a market at Ion Show, Midtown’s multipurpose new tech space Burmese food From the Finalist MasterChef Legends su khinHalal, gourmet hot dog from crazy dogsFilipino and Laotian cuisine from Fat Funk. She has plans to expand her line of “Thank you, Have a nice day” handbags, T-shirts and other merchandise to spread her cheerful message and help raise money for the local non-profit Sukoon Foundation to raise awareness and generate support for those affected by devastating floods in Pakistan.

A person at a bodega burger garnishes cheeseburger patties with toppings at Have a Nice Day Market.

Have a Nice Day works with Asian-owned food companies, including Burger Bodega – many of which sell out at the market within hours.
Alain Castellane

In October, the market will host a special celebration of Philippine American Heritage Monthin partnership with Asian-owned companies such as the Heights Ice Cream Shop Underground Creamery And the bodgie bakerywhich recently made its brick-and-mortar debut after running as a pop-up in multiple markets, including Have a Nice Day.

“They have been a huge part of our growth and vice versa. We are excited to have a little fun and collaborate with them outside the markets,” says Protomartir. “And we can’t wait for people to try what we’re working on.”

The next Duty Free will take place on a beautiful day from 4pm-8pm on Sunday, September 18th at Ion (4201 Main Street). The event will be held indoors and outdoors.

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