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Atlanta Nosh closes

Michaela Graham, founder of Atlanta Nosh, Atlanta Underground Market and Feast Noir announced by email today that she is ceasing operations of all her food-related ventures in Atlanta.

Atlanta Underground Market, Graham’s original concept, was structured as a private club, granting access to those who had signed up as members on its website. The market offered local vendors without brick and mortar locations a way to establish themselves and earn feedback about their products.

In today’s email, Graham said, “Those of you that had come to the Atlanta Underground Market from the beginning, saw the growth. It just got too big to keep it under wraps any longer. It was either: ‘Close it down’ or ‘go big.’ ”

Going “big” meant opening Atlanta Nosh, a weekly market at Atlantic Station which Graham called a “playground for foodies.” The market opened mid-April serving an estimated 200-250 ready-to-eat and prepackaged items.

Atlanta Nosh initially charged a $5 entry fee and sold season passes ($35) to cover permitting and venue costs. In early May, after the second market, the entry fee was dropped in an effort to increase attendance. Graham says, “I made the choice to go big, naively thinking that going public would mean an increase in numbers. It didn’t happen. In fact, we had lower turnout than at previous AUMs [Atlanta Underground Markets].”

When the entry fee was waived, season pass holders were offered food tickets in compensation. Now, Graham offers her apologies to the season pass holders who will be unable to redeem those food coupons. “The cost for following all the permit requirements were staggering, to say the least. I used the funds from the season passes to get everything established.”

Yet, it seems Atlanta Nosh’s woes didn’t end with low attendance. Graham recently received an email from a Nosh attendee who claims to have gotten sick from food provided by one of the vendors and is “now looking for payment.” According to her email,

Unfortunately, that was the piece of straw that broke camel’s back. I just don’t have the financial ability to deal with that. I can’t pay someone, nor can I afford to hire a lawyer. While the vendors were starting to make profit, I only had losses with the Nosh. I was trying to hang on for the vendors that did start their businesses and to make the season pass holders whole, but yesterday just did me in.

What started as a “secret” event drawing crowds that stretched for blocks from the entrance of Sweet Auburn Curb Market now comes to the “end of an era” as Graham called it.

“And with that I’m discontinuing all food events in Atlanta, as I know that my reputation will be completely shot… I gambled and I lost.”

–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog

47 comments Add your comment

jack trent

June 4th, 2012
1:50 pm

This was stupid from the beginning. Not surprised one bit.

ycn

June 4th, 2012
1:55 pm

Anyone who’s ever read/heard from Michaela on Yelp or other boards knows this was a bad idea to begin with, poorly handled by someone with an attitude.

Foodie wish

June 4th, 2012
1:55 pm

too bad,sounds like the concept was a great but it just got out of control.

And she should have never been allowed to throw an ‘event’ without liability insurance…if she had the insurance the she (and the one who cooked the food) possibly wouldve been covered from the guy seeking compensation for food poisoning.

PJ

June 4th, 2012
2:07 pm

Sad that in our litigious society, someone is seeking payment from an organization trying to do a good thing by helping local entrpreneurs launch food-related businesses. Unless this person was in the hospital & can confirm that the illness came from Nosh, he/she should get over it. I’ve gotten sick from eating food at places, but never considered asking for payment.

I enjoyed my visit to AUM and the different foods I got to try. I never made it over to Nosh, mostly because of our crazy kids’ sports schedules. I was really hoping to make it this summer. I believe one of the major issues is that there are so many different farmers markets offered around town that also sell prepackaged & ready-to-eat items. I know I am more likely to frequent the one closest to me vs. going to Atlantic Station. I’m sorry for Ms. Graham that her gamble didn’t pay off and wish her the best.

FoodFan

June 4th, 2012
2:10 pm

Gotta agree with ycn above. Couldn’t stand her attitude from day 1. That long,degensive email she blasted out to those that had signed up for the first Underground Market about how the poor quality of the first market experience wasn’t her fault just turned me off and I never could get behind anything else she did from there.

Foodgeek

June 4th, 2012
2:14 pm

She was looking for a cash cow with zero investment, and her attitude doomed it from the beginning. Not surprised at all.

FFL

June 4th, 2012
2:54 pm

Gotta agree with everyone here. Anyone that has done business with Michaela knows how she is. It wasn’t because the AUM got too big, she couldn’t consistently pull 800 attendees, even with a 12k+ mailing list. And she thought she was going get 10-20,000 every week for Nosh? No way. Feast Noir was a wonderful success last year, and this year she sent out an email asking everyone to pay $10. $10,000 for you to tell people where to show up? No thanks. Those attendees provide everything from the food to the linens to the tables. Anyone who thinks this was about helping local entrepreneurs is naive. It has always been about the money, period. She’s nice and all that jazz, until you offer suggestions about how she could better her events, or you decide to do business with someone she has dubbed an “enemy” in Atlanta. Then you get blacklisted, lol. I loved the AUM, and participated for a year before walking away because she just got too crazy. Maybe someone else will pick it up in the future.

strange

June 4th, 2012
3:09 pm

Threats of litigation over food-borne illness are par for the course for things like this, that’s why there’s liability nsurance. Very odd that this would be given as the reason to close up shop….

FoodLova

June 4th, 2012
3:21 pm

Nice to know that you can’t go around treating people like crap and not have it come back on you. I loved AUM, participated a few times but was victim of her insanity and horrible attitude. Wonderful concepts but the wrong person to run them. The vendors deserve the pity, not her. And I heard she had kicked out quite a few vendors from the Nosh who were working with her so-called enemy as mentioned above. Original AUM vendors who supported her from the beginning. What did she expect would happen with less vendors? She got very greedy and wanted to do too much with no event management experience, let alone food management experience. Who in their right mind would hold events like this with budding chefs and no insurance??!
My heart goes out to the talented vendors and I hope they find better opportunities and continue to follow their dreams. You will see, you are better off.

Glenn

June 4th, 2012
3:37 pm

Except for her long winded emails, I have had no personal contact with Michaela, so I will not comment on her. However, my wife and I finally made it to the Nosh two weeks ago and, although the number of vendors seemed small (perhaps 20), we did thoroughly enjoy the several sample dishes we tried. Sorry to see it fail.

Kate

June 4th, 2012
3:46 pm

We attended two events. The first was great, with a reasonable cost of entry and free parking. The secons was more expensive, parking was not free, and there were fewer vendors serving smaller portions which cost more. Once it crossed the threshhold of costing as much as a decent meal out, it is no longer sustainable as a business because it loses customers like us. I think an event like this should cater to the same market as food trucks, and the AUM seemed to be increasingly expensive.

Skitch

June 4th, 2012
3:51 pm

Haters love to hate.

Kudos to Michaela for giving it a shot. She’ll find the success she’s looking for, unlike those of you stuck in your boring salaried jobs.

tamia

June 4th, 2012
6:17 pm

I attempted to refer a vendor to the Atlanta Nosh and the lady immediately stated “no way, she is unbearable to work for”. After reading other comments, I hope Michaela will re-think about her attitude toward others. I enjoyed the Atlanta Nosh visit but I could tell many vendors did not have a happy spirit while serving. Good luck to them all! Maybe Michaela will share your websites/cbr#’ so we may order, perhaps for catering.

Fred ™

June 4th, 2012
6:55 pm

oh well……..

Kat

June 4th, 2012
7:34 pm

Sue the vendor, not the organizer. On second thought, she’s now probably bankrupt – so waste your own litigious monies suing someone from whom you cannot collect. Or, better yet, chalk it up to experience (eating from such a place), and choose more wisely next time.

Kat

June 4th, 2012
7:38 pm

What’s the difference between what she was offering with these vendors and the people organizing food truck out on Howell Mill or wherever? Are these “higher-class” food trucks?

AC

June 4th, 2012
8:54 pm

I’m pretty sure there was no permit from the city required for people to sell food items at Nosh/AUM like what is required for food trucks.

RK

June 4th, 2012
9:01 pm

I never thought this would work — farmer’s markets have exploded here in the last few years, as have CSAs, and food trucks are starting to gain traction. Oh, and no admission.

Brazen Unicorn

June 4th, 2012
9:29 pm

Oh well. Too bad. I totally agree about her attitude and lack of receptiveness.

atlfoodsnob

June 4th, 2012
10:04 pm

Couldn’t agree more w/ several of the comments; I too had a falling out with her and she was rude, flipant and didn’t seem to understand what she was trying to do. I even gave the AUM and Nosh a second chance after the first debacle, just to have my initial feelings confirmed…just sad and pitiful, it could have been really cool. I’m still waiting for my “season pass” reimbursement…

TGJ

June 4th, 2012
10:09 pm

I tried to tell her to insure and even tried to recommend a low cost policy option but her attitude would not let her listen. As a business owner, whose doors are still open, I recommend that she take the time to learn more about protecting her next venture. She’s a sharp, determined person but it takes more than that to get to the top. And please drop the attitude.

Alan

June 4th, 2012
10:40 pm

I did not think you could get a license to sell food to the public without having some sort of insurance. If she organized all this and was that stupid to take it on without liability, it was clear stupidity. Food poisoning can kill people. What if someone had died? I don’t see how it could have been that easy to do this without full approval from the local health department. That being said, if someone got sick, first they would have to prove what food they had and from who. If they do not have the specific tainted sample of food, they will never win. Who knows, maybe this was just an excuse to call it quits. Props for trying, but when you are talking food and the general public, you had better get insurance!

vuduchld

June 4th, 2012
11:17 pm

Another brain dead idea from a walking dead ATLien so why is this news?

Carpetbagger

June 5th, 2012
4:00 am

Just love the ATL! The capital city of the US that praises mediocrity to no end!

george

June 5th, 2012
4:58 am

my wife and i went to a couple of her supposed secret market/events. she was trying to put a RHOA touch of glitter on a glorified food truck experience, except the food was not as good. good for her for trying, however, as too many of are happy to collect guaranteed salaries and never take risks. too bad she couldn’t find a tax advantaged job creator to invest in her concept.

lrogers13

June 5th, 2012
7:25 am

I had a contract with Michaela (unrelated to this venture) once that she reneged on, costing me a couple thousand dollars. I had to take her to small claims court and she never showed up, so I won. Of course, I’ve never seen a cent of what she owes me.

This woman is bad news. I thought she had dropped off the face of the earth, so it was a complete surprise when I read this article and saw her name. I looked her up to verify it’s the same Michaela Graham, and it is.

JKS

June 5th, 2012
8:15 am

It was not a “stupid”, “brain dead” idea. It was a great idea that gave would-be restauranteurs a chance to get their name out there. Those on here who like to anonymously crap on others for taking a chance are to be pitied.

AtlEater

June 5th, 2012
9:51 am

I went to two events and after the last one I had sent an email to Michaela suggesting she let people know when most of the food had run out before they pay. This was after I paid to get in (Atlanta History Ctr) and found hardly any food left. She was very rude and dismissive in her reply and after that I never returned to any of her events. I guess her bad karma caught up with her, might pay off next time to be nice to people.

gpins

June 5th, 2012
9:58 am

I loved every part of what Michaela did with the AUM, the secretive nature and the Feast Noir. It showed entreprenurism, passion and bravery. My friends and I kept waiting to see what her “move” would be. I know dozens of entrepreneurs who make missteps and bad decisions – actually we all do. It takes a lot of moxie to get mad at somebody who has a vision and is driving something for not graciously taking unsolicited advice. As Monday morning quarterbacks, not buying insurance seems a fatal flaw. As somebody who has tried and succeed in buying insurance in a startup environment it is VERY hard and can create fixed costs that can doom a business. I would love to hear from all these “smart” posters for ideas on which insurance companies would underwrite a market with no permanent space serving food from non-FDA approved kitchens.
Michaela, don’t give up hope. You created dozens of fun experiences and empowered dozens of entrepreneurs. What you did for the ladies at Sugar Coated Radical was selfless and generous. You made a sizable mark on Atlanta and my friends and I support you in your next food related venture.

gagirl

June 5th, 2012
10:12 am

I’m confused. I was on their email list but never made it to an event. But I CLEARLY remember there being a clause stating they would not be liable in the event of food poisoning. I believe that was something you were made aware of before becoming a member. Folks are always looking to make a quick buck.

jennifer

June 5th, 2012
10:16 am

I went to a few of these events and thought the idea was great, though they were not as tightly organized as they could have been. It’s a great concept though and hopefully someone else will pick up this idea and run with it. I stopped going when it moved to Atlantic Station. Who wants to go there? Especially when prior events were at such cool spaces like the Goat Farm.

I recall that we were required to sign a waiver to join and enter, and that waiver ought to cover this food poisoning claim.

Go Dawgs!

June 5th, 2012
10:35 am

I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure you don’t just get to declare in an email that you won’t be held liable for something and then have it come true. For that to be the case, I would think there needs to be some form of agreement on the part of the customer that they won’t hold you liable in the event of food poisoning, etc.

RK

June 5th, 2012
10:44 am

The legal threat sounds like a hollow excuse for its failure.

Mc10

June 5th, 2012
10:53 am

She is very dumb and ignorant! Has no knowledge of what she is doing.
Her outfit is like a hotdog lady in NYC selling hotdogs.

Misha

June 5th, 2012
11:11 am

Yes, I’m sad to see this event close. It’s true it garnered larger attendance as a private event but it was also only held only monthly in a “secret” location announced the night before. Moving to a weekly schedule is what did Nosh in since most attendees were regulars, with steady growth of new customers. It seems she became too ambitious in moving to the new forum. I loved UGM best, but I’m sorry to see Nosh has been unsuccessful.

Bob from Accounttemps

June 5th, 2012
11:11 am

@Skitch – so what appears to be consistent critcism experienced by a number of posters is “hate” and they’re all “haters”? Can people no longer openly and honestly speak opinions any longer?

Dan

June 5th, 2012
11:31 am

@Gagirl and Jennifer, the waiver you’re talking about was for the Underground Market only, not the Nosh. The Nosh was free admission and public.

Sounds like Michaela needs to take some responsibility for why things didn’t go as hoped.

Brazen Unicorn

June 5th, 2012
9:37 pm

I bet skitch is Michaela. Would not surprise me at all.

sansho1

June 6th, 2012
9:05 am

Without patience, a plan is just a scheme, and people can sense the difference between them, even if they don’t know the details. Ms. Graham appears (and a quick scan of the public record confirms) that she has repeatedly made the same mistake as many others in this city — seeing a path to status and/or wealth, and getting too far ahead of herself in the pursuit. How many public lessons of the failure of this approach to life do we need to see, and how many people who have succeeded by quietly going about their business and gradually building respect are just shaking their heads at stories like this?

RK

June 6th, 2012
10:11 am

Haters love to hate? Isn’t that obvious? That’s like saying fishermen love to fish.

jim_bob

June 6th, 2012
9:15 pm

Wow! I can’t comment on other people’s interactions with Michaela but after reading so many of these negative comments I feel compelled to stand up for her. I was a vendor at one of the AUM markets and she was just as professional as any other event organizer I’ve worked with if not more so. It’s hard work organizing a bunch of amateur chefs, all of whom think their product will be the next great thing, myself included. Did she make mistakes? Of course! But there are very few people in Atlanta with the balls to do what she did and for that I have to thank her. Best of luck in your next endeavor, Michaela.

janet

June 7th, 2012
12:20 pm

I attended one AUM and it was fun and the food delicious. I met Michaela briefly and she was fine and busy with the event. I think weekly events were probably not a good idea. Too many things going on in Metro Atlanta . The element of surprise and monthly was better. However to those who think it was a bad idea etc, I am not surprised. Atlanta has an abundance of mediocre everthing which people pay money to see, do or eat. At the end of your life you will not regret the things you did as much as the things you didn’t do. At least she tried.

Good Groceries

June 7th, 2012
3:08 pm

……Lest we learn, the mistake was made. Atlanta Food is now with an idea that was poorly represented and now have an opportunity to thank her and move on. The only way to make food right in this or any city for that matter, is with the attention to detail. The detail in food whether it be farmers markets, restaurants, or groceries, must be of the utmost importance. There are rules to follow, rules to bend, permits to pay, people to educate, paths to forge, sleepless nights, and a lot of hard effing work, all of which take time, money, and an acute attention to detail. Otherwise, you see the outcome. The reason our food system has been steered completely off path the last 150 years is due in part to people thinking that food is an easy way to make money. This could not be further from the truth, to work in food is a privilege, to do what you love does not come easy and for those that think and try to make it easy cause those who do it right to suffer both in our industry and our health. To work in food you must know the Details! That is it, there are enough other industries to make money without the passion and commitment to doing them the right way. Go sell widgets!

Kat

June 7th, 2012
6:58 pm

@gpins: Really? Are you serious when you say ” I would love to hear from all these “smart” posters for ideas on which insurance companies would underwrite a market with no permanent space serving food from non-FDA approved kitchens.” How about thinking of it this way – if I can’t GET underwriting for my market, and the kitchens aren’t approved, then maybe, just maybe, this could be a bad idea…

Hilly Little Hands

June 8th, 2012
11:47 am

@Good Groceries – great comment! @Kat Thanks for the laugh! Great point. I love that I can always come to the food comments to remember why I love Atlanta.

99%

June 9th, 2012
7:11 pm

99% of business ideas are dumb and have no chance of success, usually due to poor planning and not thinking through details and logistics. This was one of those ideas.

Broker Bill

June 10th, 2012
1:08 am

You are100% correct Mr. 99%. I have had “entrepreneurs” come to me with totally insane get-rich-quick ideas it would make you laugh. A catfish farm in Buckhead where you catch your meal and grill it on the spot…really? A hands free mobile phone device that is basically a rubber band around your head that holds the phone to your ear…really? A remote control device that locates a lost remote control…really? No business plan, no money, and really no idea. But at least most of them were well meaning and courteous, unlike the many things I have heard about Ms. Graham.