We had a chance encounter with Tamika Lang, purveyor of Mimi's Munchies, randomly over the summer when she picked us up for a Lyft ride. As ride-share small talk goes, she told us about her healthy food delivery service in which she packs salads and other entrees into Mason jars, and that got us excited. Here's a local woman, not some Silicon Valley tech type, who wants to use the power of social media to help folks get access to nutritious, tasty food right to their doorstop.
When we wrote about her project late August, her story caught traction on social media and television and before long, WDIV's Lauren Podell came a knockin' on Lang's door in Southfield. Lang's business was featured on the morning news this week. Droves of friends and family reached out to Lang to show her that they were watching her brief brush with Detroit fame. So too though, did the Oakland County Health Division, which contacted Lang to inform her that she was running an illegal operation. An official with the department also asked us and clickondetroit.com to take down our posts, saying we were promoting an illegal operation (Lang lacks the needed food service manager's license). While the TV station obliged, we decided to keep ours up as we weren't really promoting it (true, there's for sure a fine line between marketing and editorial when covering the food and business community), but reporting on a facet of Detroit's growing DYI food culture.
We did speak with Oakland County's Environmental Health Administrator, Tony Drautz, about Mimi's. He tells us the county is interested in promoting small business owners, but only those who've taken the proper channels to get the proper licensing. Lang says she wants to comply within the guidelines and is working to get her business up to snuff.
Interesting thing about covering these types of businesses - whether it be a street vendor, an underground popup or a small business (like Mimi's) that promotes itself primarily via social media - is that in doing so, you run the risk of outing an under-the-table operation to authorities. There's a desire in food reporting to unearth the hidden, under-the-radar gems that otherwise go unnoticed. At the same time, does that reportage put that hard-working food business in jeopardy? In this instance, we hope this will help Lang get educating on the licensing she needs to stay afloat.
As an aside, Lang tells us that in the meantime she can continue making food without a license, instead working as a personal chef by preparing food in people's homes as that's considered a private event. We'll keep an eye out to see how she progresses under this format.