Mobley remembers how he felt handing out those samples of luscious, warm macaroni and cheese. “I loved that I brought a smile to their faces,” he said, “and, no matter what my week had been like, those Saturday mornings were a real highlight for me.”
He since has branched out, and sells at the seasonal Lilburn and Tucker markets, as well as in nine retail locations, including Lucy’s Market, Kelly’s Market, the Georgia Sourdough shop at Prep Atlanta, Spotted Trotter, Pine Street Market and Chop Shop, Provisions on Main, Simply Fresh and Floral Park Market.
Mobley had been preparing his macaroni and cheese in the kitchen of a friend’s restaurant, but then the Hyatt Regency Atlanta offered the use of its commercial kitchen space. “This is part of their desire to support small, local businesses, particularly African American businesses,” he said. “They have a long legacy of support for the African American community, including being one of the first major hotels in the South where African Americans could stay. This connection means a lot to me, since my company honors my great-grandmother and the heritage of all America’s first African American cooks.”
The large kitchen means he now can scale up the business, though he’s not looking to become a national behemoth. “I think that’s one problem with our food supply — the idea that one product has to serve the entire nation,” Mobley said. “There can be Anna Bell’s across the country, and we can all do it well, buying our products locally, and serving our local customers.”
As for those masks, when the pandemic hit, Mobley turned to his hometown of South Boston, Virginia, and put people to work sewing masks for a company he named ITg-Med. Then, Briana Carson of Duluth’s Provisions on Main came to him with an idea: masks, and macaroni and cheese, for teachers.
“The idea is that we provide protection for them in the classroom, and comfort food for when they get home,” he said. “We call it ‘Mask + Mac & Cheese,’ and, for $15, people can sponsor a package and support their local teachers.”
It’s been so successful that Kelly’s Market in Decatur is starting a similar program, and the firefighters union in Fairfax County, Virginia, is starting a program for Fairfax County schools.
All this keeps Mobley busy. But, he said, “every leadership program tells you, if you love what you do, you’ll do it for free. Well, I’m in that place. I’ve never worked as many hours as I work now, and I’ve never been less stressed than I am now. I really do get to do what I love.”
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