Communication Studies Alumna and Restaurant Owner Anna Myint is a 2024 Volunteer 40 Under 40
Anna Myint (‘08) owns and manages International Market, a business her parents opened in Nashville in 1975—the first Thai restaurant and market ever in the city. It has introduced Thai cuisine to generations of Nashvillians and, after closing the old relocation and opening a new one, landed on Southern Living’s The South’s Best New Restaurants of 2023. Her leadership in building the new location and pulling her brother, Arnold Myint, in as its chef, as well as her involvement in various community efforts, are just a few reasons she landed on her own lauded list: the 2024 Volunteer 40 Under 40.
If you had asked Myint six years ago if she would want to run a restaurant, the answer would have been a resounding, “Heck no.” After growing up immersed in the restaurant environment, she had dreams that were distinctly not restaurant-centric.
A Career in Fashion
A high school summer program in New York City for fashion design whetted her appetite for the field, and after graduating from the University School of Nashville, she started her higher education at the University of Cincinnati to pursue fashion and arts.
“After the first semester I thought, I don’t think I want to do fashion design—I liked it for fun but not for my life. So, I transferred to the University of Tennessee my second semester freshman year,” she said. “Someone had told me that people always transfer to UT, no one ever transfers out. It was such a good point because I just had the best time. Transferring wasn’t hard, it was so easy. I knew people and, if I didn’t know people, I made friends easily. And the classes were always interesting.”
Myint is the kind of person who doesn’t want to be constrained by limitations in her career, and who has the flexibility to follow her next passion. She thought about business, but wanted to avoid math, and accounting was a requirement for the major. As she considered her options, she found the School of Communication Studies—the versatile major offered by the school turned out to be a great fit for Myint.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I wanted to pick something that I could apply wherever I landed. And I’ve had multiple careers since I left, and I’ve applied it at every single one and it didn’t pigeonhole me. I’m forever grateful for that because I don’t want to be stuck doing one thing forever,” she said.
While she was at UT, she relished the opportunity to excel academically. Two of her favorite classes were taught by Professor Michelle Violanti—an instructor Myint characterized as a tough grader, but rightly so. Myint said that’s where she learned the basic theories of communication that have stuck with her throughout each role she’s held in her career journey.
She had a tough time out the gate as a 2008 graduate entering a tight job market due to the economic recession, so she went back home and helped at the restaurant and worked odd jobs for a year. Then Myint decided to circle back again to fashion and moved to New York City to earn a certificate in fashion studies at Parson’s School of Design. From there, she found a paid internship in the corporate office of a high-end boutique doing accounts payable—the irony isn’t lost on her that she avoided a business major because she didn’t want to do accounting or math, yet her first entrance into the professional world was in accounts payable.
“I found out I really like numbers when it comes to sales and dissecting a business. I grew up in restaurants and I know about profit, and I really like that part of it,” she said.
Myint gave herself a timeline of a year in New York City to find success, and she landed on her feet after running into a high school friend in the subway who was working as a designer at Macy’s. Myint asked her former cheerleading teammate to pass on her resume to the Executive Development Program through Macy’s merchandising department, and her friend agreed. After an intense interview process and three months of training, she started working for Macy’s in various departments doing buying roles, including: home store, ready-to-wear, shapewear, and then by the time she left, as an associate buyer for sleepwear.
“At the time I was managing an $85 million business as an associate, and from there I was managing sales and monitoring everything, making sure things are priced correctly, advertisements, and finalizing assortments. When you think of buying, you think it’s all fashion, but that’s about 10 percent of it. I loved that job, it was so wonderful,” she said.
Living in New York City was difficult and at some point it clicked that Myint was traveling home to Nashville and spending more time there than where she lived. Nashville had changed and was becoming a more appealing place for her to live. She got the push she needed when her mother became ill over the holidays and had a hospital stay. While her father, who was 12 years her mother’s senior, had dealt with illnesses over the years—including Parkinson’s disease—her mother’s hospital stint was a wake-up call. Myint packed up and moved home in 2015.
Not only did she return home, she returned to her high school, University School of Nashville. They were in need of an alumni director and social media coordinator. She had always stayed in touch with USN and been involved in fundraising efforts as an alumna, so it was a natural fit. While working there, she pursued her MBA at Vanderbilt University—once again laughing at the fact she had avoided business in undergrad, only to earn a master’s in the field.
Then, in October 2018, Myint’s mother died, followed by her father in 2019. The couple had already set a plan in motion to sell one of their three restaurant buildings, International Market, and to construct a new building for the restaurant across the street. Myint left USN and took the reins of the family business to finish what they started. When COVID-19 hit in 2020, she put a pause on the construction plans, but started it back up with groundbreaking in November 2020.
She convinced her brother to move from Los Angeles—where he was a well-known chef who has been on TV shows including Top Chef—to come back and run the kitchen at International Market. Together they made the choice to close one of the family’s other restaurants, PM, as they wanted to put their hearts and souls into International Market. Recently, they have been recognized as one of The James Beard Foundation’s Southeast Region’s Best Chefs, International Market semi-finalists.
“I could have never done this without my brother. The two of us make a really good team when it comes to the restaurant. We’ve been open and are getting a ton of awards, but we’re operating very mom and pop right now. Our staff is really loyal because they’ve been with us forever because they know we’ll take care of them,” Myint said.
A Community Leader
While running the restaurant was an unexpected turn for her, she has enjoyed the process. Something clicked for her a while before, when she was talking to her mom about how she enjoyed the business side of retail, and she realized a restaurant was no different than retail. Once the new International Market got its footing, she began diving back into the community and advocating for small restaurants and businesses. She’s connected with the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, joined the Nashville Emerging Leaders, and is on the Small World Yoga board. She was featured in the 40 Under 40 for the Nashville Business Journal, and she is now the face of the restaurant.
Ever the one to be looking for the next thing she can do or build, Myint admits she’s already thinking about where she can apply her business and communication skills next. Regardless of where she goes, she will carry a spirit of giving and kindness with her; her family are Buddhist and her parents instilled in her to be kind and giving to everyone, no matter who they are. She has fond memories of going back to her parents’ homelands of Burma and Thailand and giving supplies to those in need there, and she and her brother continue to do that today. In a way, she had the Volunteer spirit before she ever came to UT, and she’s been able to carry it through everything she does.
She is also grateful her parents made her education a priority. Her father earned his doctorate from Rensselear Polytechnic Institute and he ended up teaching calculus at Tennessee State University. Her mother attended Trevecca Nazarene University then earned an MBA from Middle Tennessee State University.
“They raised us to have things in our lives that they never could have had for themselves growing up. They always wanted us to have experiences and we couldn’t do that without being educated. They also taught us how to work hard,” she said. “Every trip I wanted to take in college, like study abroad or spring break, I would have to work to pay for half of it.”
While her parents wanted her to focus on her studies during the school year, Myint worked all throughout her summers and holiday breaks at the restaurant. Little did she know she would one day take the education they supported, and the many lessons they taught her, to come back full circle to maintain their legacy and elevate the restaurant they founded to become the success it is today.