Anna Myint may not be quite as used to the spotlight as her brother Arnold Myint, but we have a sneaking suspicion that’s about to change. One half of the brother-sister duo behind the recently closed PM and the brand new International Market (softly opening this month), Anna is more integral to the Nashville restaurant scene than she gives herself credit for. The Myint family’s restaurant fame dates back to 1975 when Anna and Arnold’s parents opened Music City’s original International Market on Belmont Boulevard.
Now, nearly 50 years later, the legacy continues as Anna and Arnold honor their parents’ memory with International Market’s newest iteration, directly across the street from the original International Market location, fondly referred to as IM2. With a recent MBA from Vanderbilt, Anna is carving out a niche that merges her family legacy with her forward-thinking, business-savvy ways. Please welcome this week’s FACE of Nashville, International Market Co-Owner, Anna Myint.
Your family has one of the most phenomenal small business legacies in Nashville. How did it all start?
The whole “phenomenal family business” thing is so amazing to hear. It’s humbling. Call me naive, but I didn’t realize how much it meant to people in Nashville, even though I know how much it means to me. My parents got married in 1975 and opened the restaurant simultaneously. My dad was a calculus professor, and they met here. My mom was like, “There are no good Asian restaurants in Nashville!” So, they bought this space that Belmont [University] has now created this amazing performing arts center on. They bought it for really cheap, before Belmont became the street that it is today, and they opened the International Market. My mom’s brother lived in Chicago, and they had a van, so they would drive to Chicago every weekend for groceries because there was nowhere in Nashville to get certain ingredients.
Do you have any favorite childhood memories in the original market?
I grew up at the restaurant. As I said, my dad was a college professor, so he had an 8 a.m. class. He took me to school, and then my mom picked me up, and I spent the afternoon and evening at the restaurant until my dad returned from teaching. I used to sit in the orange booths at the restaurant and have a snack or talk to customers. I had a desk in the back office that I made into a fort; I had all my toys — my sticker collection and marbles. I had a little TV with VHS, and I watched my favorite movie, Willy Wonka. I watched The Babysitters Club and took lots of naps. I had birthday parties there. I have so many memories! My friends always wanted to come “home” with me because we’d go to the restaurant and they could eat all of this food that they wouldn’t get at home. I always wanted to go home with them because I would get meatloaf and fried chicken.
You’re in business with your brother. What prompted you to collaborate?
About a year before my mom passed, I told her I wanted to go to business school and take over. Then she and my dad both passed unexpectedly, so I got thrown into it. Arnold has opened restaurants before; he knows how much work it is. He’s the chef; he’s the creative mastermind behind all of the dishes and speaks Thai fluently, so he can talk to our family in Thailand to help get recipes. I can speak conversationally, and I can cook, but I’m not trained. I’m more the business, numbers, and retail part of it — the front of the house. It wasn’t an easy decision because I had a job I loved at University School of Nashville, and I loved everything about that. Opening a business is a lot! It took a lot of conversation, but we’re a very good team.
Tell us about closing PM after so many years.
That was such a difficult decision … Eighteen years is hard to walk away from, but we took our staff (who’ve been very loyal to us for many years) to the International Market. We intended to make it through 2021 and say, “Thank you for 18 great years; let’s finish it strong!” but then I saw that Athens was getting pushed out of their lease, and we felt it was the right time.
Editor’s note: Athens is a local, long time favorite mom-and-pop restaurant that was formerly located on 8th Avenue. This favorite can now be found in the old PM location on Belmont Blvd!
What elements have you retained from the original market, and what updates have you made?
We have a couple of the original orange booths and some original letters from the International Market sign on the wall. We worked hard to get the same font as the original International Market outside, and when they tore down the building, I asked if I could take a bunch of bricks. I didn’t know what I would use them for, but we have a bunch of them behind the bar. When our contractors were working on the building, some exterior pieces needed repair, so they used the original brick to repair the outside of the building. The wooden ladies doing the Thai greeting and the red trays to go through the line are original. We painted the patio fencing red to match the exterior of the former building, and we have the original gumball machine that I’ve had to tape up. That gumball machine is probably 40 years old! It’s a mix of the old and the new.
What’s on the menu?
Half of the menu is “OG” things. My mom’s Pad Thai is on the menu. The steam table has fried rice and egg rolls and my grandmother’s shumai. In the market section, I included all the candies that my mom used to have. But in version two, we’re doing more to support other local businesses — like using local meats. Many of the dishes that my brother has on the menu are things that I eat when I go to Thailand. Things like Pad Thai aren’t necessarily dishes that Thai people eat. So the menu has those more Americanized Thai dishes, but it also has real Thai dishes.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“If you can’t do anything about it, try not to stress about it and move forward.” I also really like the saying, “Be proactive, not reactive.” I used to work in corporate in New York. I asked to meet with my VP because I wanted a raise, but it was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I was in my early 20s, and it was the first time I’d ever asked for more money. When I told her that, she paused and looked at me, and I thought, Great, I’m getting fired. Instead, she said, ‘I’m so proud of you. I can tell you’re nervous, but if you can’t ask for things for yourself, how can we believe that you can ask for things on behalf of the company?’ After that conversation, I was able to ask for more positions and get promoted quite often.
Faith, family, and friends notwithstanding, what are three things that you cannot live without?
Obviously, food; I grew up in the restaurant industry! I love traveling; I’m a world traveler. I love seeing new places — new experiences, trying new things, and seeing different cultures. And my dog, Peppermint. She has seen me through a lot.
Thanks for sharing your story with us, Anna, and thanks to Mary Craven Photography for the photos!
Meet more amazing FACES in our archives. Click HERE and prepare to be inspired!