Let’s Taco ‘Bout It: Baby Got Greens

Listen in on a candid conversation with Austin Woman Publisher Melinda Garvey and Baby Greens Founder Sharon Mays.

Photos by Dustin Meyer

The healthy fast-food restaurant Baby Greens broke Austin hearts when it shuttered its three locations throughout town back in 2009. Six years later, the ahead-of-its-time eatery conceived by entrepreneur Sharon Mays will reopen this spring on Anderson Lane in North Central Austin with help from Mays’ new partners, Amy and Steve Simmons of Amy’s Ice Creams fame. Mays sat down with Austin Woman Publisher Melinda Garvey over tacos at local eatery Tacodeli to share why closing was the right thing to do, how she decided to come back and the vital lesson she learned in the process.

Melinda Garvey: Sharon, you were on our cover in 2009, and at that point, you had three stores open. Why did you decide to close?
Sharon Mays: 2009 was a really interesting year because it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The more popular and successful and busier we got, the more it wore me down. Being the only owner is one thing when you own one store, but owning three and being a restaurateur is different than being an entrepreneur. In the end, I could tell something was broken, but I couldn’t understand what it was.

MG: But it was successful and, at the time, you were on the cutting edge of this healthy fastfood movement.
SM: Exactly. On one hand, I had random people calling and emailing me from across the country saying, “I’ve heard about your concept. I want to buy a franchise,” and I was just like, “Oh my gosh, this is actually working.” But on the other hand, it was this whole other business. It was heartbreaking to create something that actually works but that you can’t get to. It’s like something you want so bad being just beyond your fingertips. And so, I had this sit-down with myself one day and just thought, “I’m never going to fix this while this company’s in motion. I have to stop this company right now.” Of all the risky, crazy things I’ve done, that’s at the very top: to take a restaurant that’s actually making money and say, “I’m going to stop this because I can see the cracks in the pavement, and it’s not going to end well.”

MG: Now, it’s been six years. Did you always have this plan to reopen?
SM: I said that one of two things is going to happen: I’m either going to figure this out and fix it and bring it back, or I’m going to go out on a high note so that if I never reopen this company again, I’m OK with it. I didn’t think Baby Greens was going to stay open six months, but it lasted six years and I had three locations. I knew I was rolling the dice, but if I never got the opportunity again, I would be OK knowing it went further than I thought it would go. But on the slim chance it could come back, people would have to still love it.

MG: For entrepreneurs, getting an outside perspective is a challenge. How did you do it?
SM: You need a lot of perspective to step away. I know it’s cheesy to say, but I believe you’ve just got to put yourself out there. I’m a dreamer, and it’s hard and hurtful to put yourself out in so many places and lose. But I almost never regret a chance I’ve taken. And at least I’ve stretched myself, opened myself in a way that will help me get to where I’m really supposed to be. That is my never-ending journey: to find the place where my happiness is. I think that’s everyone’s journey. But I also feel like it doesn’t come to you; you have to find it.

 

Snapshot:

Who: Sharon Mays, owner, Baby Greens

Hometown: Austin

Number of times she hits snooze in the morning: “Zero. I hate being jarred awake, so I usually wake up about 15 minutes before my alarm goes off.”

How she takes her coffee: “I usually drink English breakfast tea, black, no sugar. If I do drink coffee, I usually have it with nondairy creamer, which is on a short list of gross fake food that I like. I don’t like milk unless cookies or peanut butter is involved.”

Her social-media preference: “I love Instagram. I’m one of those annoying people. Yes, I take pictures of my food.” @eatbabygreens

Her words to live by: “I’m a glutton for life. I want to fill myself with as many life experiences as my brain and body can handle. I’m a dreamer and I want all of my dreams to come true. I would rather try and fail miserably than sit on the sidelines and wonder what might have been.”

On the Menu
Tacodeli, 7301 Burnet Road
Sharon’s order: Pollo Fantastico and Puerco Verde
Melinda’s order: Pollo Fantastico,chips and guacamole


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