“Over the years, small change makers have done so much to make Athens a rich, southern small town,” says Erin Wilson, gazing out the front window of The National, a well-established restaurant in the heart of downtown.
After coming to University of Georgia in 2007 to study Public Relations, Erin quickly fell in love with the vibrant Athens community. The city’s energy pulled her to stay after graduation, where she found a home in the local restaurant scene.
“I was asking myself, ‘how can this PR skill set be used for [something] that I felt good about?’” says Erin. “This town really inspires me, the people in it really inspire me, and working at The National brought it all together”.
At The National, Erin is able to combine her passion for writing, community building, and food. Originally starting as a host and a PR intern, Erin is now General Manager and Partner, overseeing day-to-day operations as well as the long-term growth of the business.
The National is well-known in Athens and beyond for their commitment to quality food, built on farm-centric sourcing. The restaurant has helped grow the Athens good food movement through investing in local producers.
“The audience that we have from this restaurant, its reputation, its time in existence – it affords us the opportunity to uplift people,” says Erin. “Why put your money out into the world, where you’ll never see it back, when you can put it out into your community and see it grow people who you want to see grow?”
As for the role of restaurants in general, Erin adds, “I think restaurants being on board is essential for the good food movement to progress”. Because such a range of people dining out, she believes, restaurants can demonstrate to a wide audience how sourcing good ingredients makes for delicious food.
Customers’ take these ideas from restaurants, Erin says, to the farmers market, to a CSA, to the grocery store, to their homes. “I think restaurants are a gateway – the more that access is grown, and the more that restaurants can facilitate that access, the more people adjust their thinking about food,” explains Erin.
As for the 2020 Georgia Organics Conference in Athens, Erin is excited to share what The National does in the city. “I hope we can be as engaged with conference goers as possible,” she says, adding that The National is open for a coffee in the morning, a midday break, or a cocktail after the conference.
“Come here and see how Athens is doing so much for the farming community in this town – and how the restaurants are buying into it.”