Ebony Austin is the owner of Nouveau Bar & Grill, located in downtown College Park’s bustling Main Street. A natural entrepreneur, Austin opened the restaurant in 2019 after years of searching for the right location. She landed in College Park, a community she is proud to call home to Nouveau Bar & Grill, and her dedication to customer service and creating a sense of family in the community is what drives her – and Nouveau – forward each day.
Can you tell us about your background and what led you to open a business in College Park?
EA: I was born and raised in Chicago, then went away to college. I always loved the restaurant business, because my mother had a small, to-go restaurant in my hometown. I learned about how food made people feel, and my auntie, Chelle, showed me how important credit and savings were. I had the opportunity to see how food and good customer service could change a person’s day, and that is really how it all started.
Fast forward past college, I worked on the Godiva Chocolatier and 1800 Flowers teams, opening many of their locations and growing their corporate sales, and soon after started my own real estate and transportation companies. After those businesses were on their feet, I decided it was time to go back to my roots, and it took three years to find the perfect space for Nouveau. Once a really close friend and I stepped into College Park, I knew I was in the right place. I prayed for years, and when we saw the building Nouveau is now in, we walked in and both said, “this is it.”
Can you tell us more about Nouveau Bar & Grill?
EA: One of the best things about Nouveau Bar & Grill is the atmosphere – and the experience really does not change, regardless of what section you may be seated in. We have a family section, where parents can feel comfortable bringing their children for a family meal, and we have a bar area that serves the crowd looking for happy hours, good food and music. Nouveau also has outdoor dining, so guests can eat on the patio or on the rooftop, overlooking Main Street.
The biggest factor to me is community. My mother only sold three items in her restaurant each day, but people came back day-after-day because of the experience and connection. I really wanted the same feeling when people visited Nouveau, which played a huge part in deciding where to actually open the restaurant. I looked all over Atlanta but could not find a community where I felt I could really make an impact, until visiting College Park. We’re not just here to make money; we are here to give back to the College Park community.
What did opening Nouveau look like?
EA: I found a great consultant who helped with contractors and the build out, and through my previous real estate and retail experience, I knew exactly how I wanted the restaurant to look and feel like. A really good friend helped out with staffing, interviews, furniture shopping – literally, we were side-by-side for the build out and things of that nature. I had several people who saw the vision, understood it and wanted to make it happen. It surely takes a village, but we made it.
What were your goals for Nouveau upon opening? Have they changed since then?
EA: Well, I never open anything without goals and we had two main ones for Nouveau: a monetary goal and a community goal. A huge goal was to make a mark on the community in some way, especially with so many local schools nearby and the pandemic happening. There’s such an amazing group of Black-owned businesses nearby on Main Street, and it really inspired me to be a part of that community. That was a reason College Park felt so right for Nouveau.
As we have grown since opening, goals have definitely changed as we always want to reach for more. As far as the community goes, regulars have truly become like family. We know when their son is graduating, when their daughter leaves for college… we really want to build those relationships because opening a restaurant is truly like having a newborn baby. It needs nurturing, and two key things are consistency and customer service.
What is a business accomplishment you’re really proud of?
EA: We really take pride in being on Main Street, especially during COVID-19. We all stood strong through the pandemic and helped each other as much as possible, recommending people to other nearby businesses. Aside from that, changing the community is both a personal and business accomplishment I’ve proud of. To see guests’ faces when they find out I am the owner, and to show people that something different can be done, is something that I am proud of.
We know community is a huge focus for Nouveau Bar & Grill. Can you tell us more about how you support the College Park community?
EA: Each month, we give back as much as possible. We’ve purchased laptops for an elementary school, wrote checks and bought Christmas gifts for students in the past, as well as providing meals to teachers. During the pandemic, we hosted high school graduates for a senior dinner, gave them swag bags and threw a fish fry for the community to enjoy, which was one of my favorite moments since opening. We’ve also been giving dinners to paramedics and hosted an event for frontline workers.
What is your favorite thing about being a Black business owner?
EA: Black people should know that what they said was impossible, is actually possible. Growing up, I never really saw entrepreneurs in my community, and I feel honored to show some Black girl magic now. If I can show young girls it is possible, and change their thoughts on entrepreneurship, I’ve done my portion because they can go out and change the world, too. Now, I get to show people something different and that it is possible – and for that, I am forever grateful.