How Zim Torrain is building community with culinary venture Mr. Gravy’s
Like many, Zim Torrain was facing stagnation in his life in 2022. Feeling unfulfilled in his job, he was longing for a career that felt purposeful. With previous family experience in catering and a desire to develop a business model that put affordability and quality first, Mr. Gravy’s was formed. While it was a risk, Zim felt inspired by the opportunity to “put his all into something he believed in”. A family-owned and operated business, they started with several appearances at local events like Durham’s food rodeos. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers launched Mr. Gravy’s into expanding their menu offerings rapidly. Now, they proudly market their business as a one-stop shop for customers to enjoy every course. “It’s all here”, including southern comfort mains, 10 different dessert options, and over 25 different flavors of fruity lemonades.
The most recent milestone for Zim is his participation in the first vendor residency at Chapel Hill’s new Garden Spot. The market is an opportunity for the Chapel Hill community to connect with local BIPOC food entrepreneurs while enjoying a new outdoor space designed to bring people together. Zim discovered the program through his conversations with staff at the Small Business Center at Durham Tech, a collaborator of the Garden Spot program. They encourage his participation, stating that the increased exposure to a new customer base could help propel Mr. Gravy’s to reach their long-term business goals. The vendor market also has created a supportive network of fellow food entrepreneurs facing the same challenges in expanding their businesses.
Mr. Gravy’s philosophy.
Over our long conversation, it was clear that Zim felt a duty to provide his customers with the highest quality products at the lowest price possible. He stated, “Mr. Gravy’s strives to make your first taste your best taste”. A motto that guides every one of his family members who help the business run. Even when faced with economic pressures like increased costs due to inflation, Zim noted he would rather have lower margins and be able to serve and connect with more customers than increase the price of menu choices. Ensuring that Mr. Gravy’s food remains of the highest quality, he is always looking to grow and change with customer feedback. Zim recalled that having a non-fixed menu gives him the flexibility to add new creations when culinary inspiration strikes.
Zim has found his purpose in connecting with customers, whether at in-person events or on social media when patrons share their pictures of his incredible food. He noted that Garden Spot’s goal of creating an inclusive community through food further motivated him to apply for a vendor spot.
Looking toward the future.
Zim Torrain has impressively expanded Mr. Gravy’s in the past year, but this venture’s growth hasn’t been easy. Like many ventures, financial support has been the biggest challenge for Zim. He is currently working on refurbishing a food truck to be able to participate in food vendor events more efficiently. In addition to a food truck expansion, Zim has also been working on an updated business plan. Ultimately, he hopes to be able to expand to include several food trucks giving him more availability to attend events in multiple locations in the Triangle. While he wants to bring on additional staff, he is determined to always remain at the helm to ensure the continuation of Mr. Gravy’s business
Where can you find Mr. Gravy’s?
Zim and the Mr. Gravy’s team will be at the Garden Spot market from 4-8 PM on July 21st, 22nd, and 28th. Be sure to follow their social media channels below to know where to find them!