Gypsy Queen Cuisine owner plans a West Asheville storefront

SIT FOR A SPELL: Gypsy Queen Cuisine food truck operator Suzy Salwa Phillips is close to achieving her dream of opening a storefront. Her new venture, Gypsy Queen Deli & Market, is scheduled to open in the old Zinger's location in West Asheville in August. Photo by Jayson Im

Suzy Salwa Phillips, founder of Gypsy Queen Cuisine and a pioneer of Asheville’s food truck scene, will soon stop — or at least cut back on — her rambling ways. Phillips plans to open Gypsy Queen Deli & Market, a brick-and-mortar shop in West Asheville sometime in August.

Phillips will open her new venture at 807-A Patton Ave. in the space that once housed Nona Mia Market & Deli and later Zinger’s, a chicken and pizza place. She chose the property, she says, because of its existing kitchen and prime location.

Still, she plans to make significant changes to the interior before opening for business and is therefore revisiting the crowdfunding model she used when bringing her food truck to life several years ago. She has plans to launch an Indiegogo campaign to augment a small-business loan she received in mid-May, with a goal of redecorating and buying new kitchen equipment for the store.

“It’s pretty expensive to open a brick-and-mortar,” she says. “We’re going to try our best [with what we have], but with the resources and the funding [available to me now], it’s not going to be my main vision.” In return for their support, Phillips will reward donors with free food, private parties and cooking classes.

Phillips says the storefront will allow her to enhance her menu items with items she cannot serve at the food truck. From traditional Lebanese dishes like tahini and savory pies to handmade yogurt and Middle Eastern desserts, she says she hopes to bring a little more of Lebanon and herself to the people of Asheville. She also plans to offer delivery from the storefront with delivery personnel and through Valet Gourmet.

Another service the shop will allow Phillips to provide is a stock of fresh, ready-made, Lebanese grab-and-go food items, which will make Gypsy Queen Deli & Market Asheville’s first Middle Eastern cuisine market.

Gypsy Queen Cuisine has been a fixture on the Asheville food truck scene since Phillips rolled out  her truck, Spartacus, in 2009. Although she is known locally for her involvement in the movement several years ago that persuaded city officials to allow food trucks downtown, Phillips originally had plans to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant when the economy collapsed in 2008 and her investors backed out.

Now that she has come full circle, she says she is ready to have one set place she can call her own, noting that her truck broke down more than 20 times in the past four years. “He doesn’t live up to his gladiator name,” she says. Phillips also cites weather as another unpredictable aspect of the food truck business, with the winter seeing decreased foot-traffic at the vendors lots. “If it’s cold, you don’t work,” she says. “If it’s raining, you kind of don’t work. A lot of people don’t come out when it’s cold.”

To avoid an inconsistent customer base Phillips does regular updates on social media about Gypsy Queen Cuisine’s whereabouts, but she says having a storefront will solve that dilemma. “It’s going to be so much easier to turn one key and go in one spot and stay there until you close,” Phillips says. “It’s orgasmic, just the thought of it. I will boo-hoo cry when we cut the ribbon.”

Although she has misgivings about operating a food truck, Phillips plans to keep the one that drove her dream of owning a brick-and-mortar restaurant into reality. Despite its flaws, Spartacus will continue to operate with a different driver at spots around town, including New Mountain and the West Asheville Tailgate Market.

“That’s my baby,” Phillips says. “It’s gotten me this far.”

Gypsy Queen Deli & Market will open in August at 807-A Patton Ave. For details and updates, visit gypsyqueencuisine.com.

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About Samantha Glaspy
I hail from Hendersonville, N.C., attend Appalachian State University for journalism and am currently an intern at Mountain Xpress. Follow me @samglaspy

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