This week we are talking #teaming #squadgoals #womensupportingwomen. However you label it, the three womxn we interviewed this week are friends, co-workers and change-makers who have come together to support their community of bartenders during this extremely challenging time for the industry. Meet Keyatta Mincey Parker, Rori Robinson and Stephanie Saputo, who are building a community garden in Atlanta called “A Sip of Paradise.” This special garden is a place for bartenders to recharge and grow food, herbs and flowers for themselves and their families with the aim of transforming their wellness and happiness. Learn about how these three women redefined their careers and found the strength to create positive change together for their community.
Keyatta Mincey Parker: Founder and Director, of A Sip of Paradise Gardens / Cocktail Stylist and Influencer, Pictures and Cocktails
Rori Robinson: Director of Gardening and Development, A Sip of Paradise Gardens, / Owner/Founder-Bloom Bar Garnish Co. and Bloom Bar Beverage Service (launching Spring 2021)
Stephanie Saputo: Director of Registration and Community Affairs, A Sip of Paradise Gardens / Atlanta Whiskey Guardian, Angels Envy
Tell us about your professional path:
Keyatta: The moment I realized that I could have an actual career was in 2015 when an article came out by Tales of The Cocktail called “How 5 African American Women are Shaking Up Atlanta’s Cocktail Scene.” I was featured in the article and after that an entire world of opportunities opened up for me.
Rori: I had been tending bar at The Painted Pin for over five years, and just started my position as Event Manager for Likewise Bar and Lounge inside of Citizen Supply in Ponce City Market. On March 16th, 2020 I was informed by both employers that they’d be closing temporarily, and I have been furloughed ever since. That led to me accelerating my plans for entrepreneurship.
Stephanie: My mom was a waitress and bartender growing up. I always wanted to be in the food and beverage industry and went to Culinary school because it was the only thing at the time that I thought could make a fun and interesting career. Although I dropped out of culinary school due to financial difficulties, I moved to Asheville and lived with chefs while I worked front of house. Ten years later, I am still here.
How did you all come together as a team?
Keyatta: My goal in life has always been to do what I love with my friends. Rori and I met through mutual friends while bartending at a charity event. She became someone I really liked. Stephanie and I met competing in Speed Rack in 2017 [an all female bartending competition that raises money for Breast Cancer Research]. These ladies are my left and left hand (inside joke because we are all left handed) and they allow me to focus on getting the word out and finding support and funding. Rori manages the garden logistics and Stephanie manages the community logistics.
Rori: I remember, Keyatta said to me one night while I was visiting Bon Ton (where she was bartending), “Rori! I’m putting together a team for a bartenders’ garden and I want you to be a part of it.” Before she even explained my role, or even fully finished her statement, I screamed “yes!”
Stephanie: I met Keyatta at Speed Rack. When we saw each other, we instantly screamed like we had been estranged rather than newly acquainted, because we had heard about each other through a former boss. When she became a finalist for Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender, the ability to enrich our community through the garden started becoming a reality. I jumped at the opportunity to work with her because I know whatever Keyatta sets her mind to, gets done, and gets done well.
What’s your “why?”
Stephanie: I believe in trying to leave the world better than you found it, even if it’s only in your small community. One of the biggest challenges bartenders have is the ability to take care of ourselves first so we can better take care of others. People from all walks of life sit with us and we are their dining partner during the duration of their stay. We keep them entertained, listen to their grievances and regulate unruly behavior, while shaking and stirring cocktails for the rest of the restaurant. That kind of emotional draining has to be replenished or it starts to take a toll on our well-being. As a community, we are finally realizing that just because we are not paid fair hourly wages doesn’t mean we are undeserving of a fair work/life balance. There are so many great things to love about this job but many of us get burnt out after years of long hours, no paid vacations or health care.
Keyatta: I keep going because my bar community is really hurting right now, I’m hurting and my friends are hurting. Besides if not me, then who, if not now, when?
Rori: My motivation for doing everything that I’m doing now is building the life of my dreams, on my terms. A sustainable lifestyle that isn’t dependent upon the willingness of others to hire us for jobs is important to both me and my partner. Continuing education is a major pillar in my pursuit of that freedom, as I best serve others when I’m armed with knowledge and information. I like to research, experiment, and take in all I can in my areas of interest. I know that I lead strongly by example, and I take immense pride in doing things fully, with truth and gratitude towards anyone working with me.
Who is part of your community and how has your community enriched your life?Rori: My community is made up of anyone I share commonalities with: black people, women, marginalized minorities, veterans, LGBTQIA, friends and family...the list goes on. My life is enriched by the intersectional overlap of all our respective lives. We support each other through causes and initiatives that promote social justice and progressive change. My garden community includes service industry professionals, such as myself, and local businesses and organizations that we have partnered with to help build up our non-profit. From the women at The Lola that contact us for workshop events, to the amazing staff of Food Well Alliance that constructed our compost bin for the garden, the support is abundant.
Keyatta: My community includes individuals from marginalized groups: primarily women, African Americans, LGBTQ+, minimum wage and undocumented people who want the best for themselves and their families. I have grown with these people, worked with them, fought with and cried with them. We all just want the best for ourselves and our families. My life is more enriched having different people with good hearts in it.
Stephanie: My community is a strong and amazing group of mostly womxn who I’ve met through the industry. We share many of the same goals, and work with one another to help us thrive in what makes us happy. It’s such an amazing support system. Whether it’s through networking, or promoting each other’s endeavors, it feels more about all of us succeeding than about a race to see who can be the most successful or most popular.
How has COVID left its mark?
Keyatta: It caused me to be furloughed from Bon Ton, but it gave me the freedom to focus and build A Sip of Paradise. While it kept me home, it gave me a chance to rediscover my husband and kids. It stopped a path I was on as a Bar Star, but it forced me to redefine a career path I want and not one that was thrown at me. The fallout is very real, but I have to stay encouraged. On a personal note, I have been forced to be very vulnerable with my kids which is challenging as I have always been a pillar of strength. I realize I don’t have all the answers for my children.
Stephanie: COVID was a perfect time for me to make lemonade out of lemons. I decided not to return to the bar. I had just started with Angel’s Envy in March, which maybe was the perfect time because I didn’t have to unlearn anything. Instead we all figured out how to continue supporting the people and places who support us, while being extra safe. The garden was the perfect spot to host small events where we could promote social distancing but also still be together. Many of my events through Angel’s Envy have been at the garden, and they’ve all been beautiful. I love that I can bring my two passions together.
Rori: As a result of being furloughed, my focus shifted drastically to getting my businesses up and operating, and getting exposure and growth for the community garden
What about 2021 excites you?
Keyatta: I’m always excited about new years, it gives you a chance to reset, but what I’m most excited about are the plans we have for the garden - the partnerships and relationships we have built and the work we are doing. Personally I’m excited because my oldest is graduating from high school. Both of my kids have been challenged during these times and I’m just happy we can celebrate.
Rori: In June of last year I started my own private bartending and consulting firm, as well as a plant-based product line of non-alcoholic mixers and garnishes. Bloom Bar Garnish Company and Bloom Bar Beverage Service are both set to launch in Spring 2021. The garden is sure to keep us busy this year with social events, educational workshops, and seeking sponsorship opportunities.
Stephanie: We’ve been wanting for so long to bring a better sense of community to our industry in Atlanta and it seems like a lot of the pieces of the puzzle will fall together this year. I am very hopeful. Personally, I’m getting married so that’s pretty exciting! I’m really focused on perfecting pickling/fermenting this year. Please wish me luck!
A little more about these amazing womxn and what they are building in their own words below. Please visit https://asipofparadisegarden.org to learn more about how you can support and get involved in this amazing initiative.
Keyatta: I am a Liberian American bartender based in Atlanta. I have been bartending for over 18 years, I am a mom, wife and business owner. In January 2020 I started a non profit bartenders community garden called A Sip of Paradise Garden, I have also been a cocktail stylist for big brands like Bacardi, Brown Forman, Chatham Imports and many more, as well as a cocktail influencer. Follow Keyatta @picturesandcocktails.
Rori: Owner/Founder of Bloom Bar Garnish Co. and Bloom Bar Beverage Service which is launching Spring 2021 and Director of Gardening and Development for A Sip of Paradise Garden. I have over 15 years of hospitality experience in Atlanta including Likewise Bar & Lounge, the Spence, TAP Parrish and others. Follow Rori @go_for_rori.Stephanie: I am a transplant from a small town in Pennsylvania. My fiance and I moved to Atlanta in 2016. We have two dogs and just recently rescued a cat. I’ve been in the industry in some form since I was 18 years old, and before Covid I was bartending. In March of 2020 I took a job with Angel’s Envy as their Atlanta Whiskey Guardian. Follow Stephanie @whiskeystrega.