Eva Zhou + Emily Shum

Land to Sea
Williamsburg
Mark our words - Williamsburg is on its way to becoming a pseudo-Chinatown to Asian-American Brooklynites and it feels so good. Land to Sea, a coffee shop and creative space opened in 2021 and has already become a staple to the L-train dependents. Opened by founders (right to left) Eva Zhou and Emily Shum, this space doesn’t simply serve the best Honey Cinnamon Oat Milk Lattes and pork buns, it also acts as a venue for workshops, bake sales and art/film screenings. In a time like this, they are putting their Chinese heritage and culture first to provide a safe space for the community, especially in a time when it is important to be unapologetically Asian. We sat down with both female founders on a snowy day this month and talked to them about Korean BBQ and rolling with the punches.
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What was growing up like for you and did you have family meals growing up?

Eva: The earlier part of my childhood I spent growing up in Omaha, Nebraska. Very much small town vibes – there was a lot of running around barefoot, riding bikes, catching turtles by the lakes. Not a lot of diversity there so my family stuck out like sore thumbs; more times than not we would be the only people of color in public spaces. It wasn’t until I moved to Georgia where I had another East Asian student in my class who I quickly befriended.

Family meals were always major as to how my family spends quality time + expresses love. One of my earliest memories is when my grandparents lived a couple blocks down from us, so every weekend my parents, brother and I would walk over for morning dumplings, congee, etcetera. 


Emily: I grew up in South Brooklyn. I lived in a house with my three cousins, my aunt + uncle, and my grandparents since my parents were always working. We were right in between a hasidic Jewish neighborhood, a Latino community and BK Chinatown - safe to say I had a pretty diverse friend group growing up! One of my favorite memories was using the dollars my grandpa occasionally snuck for my brother and I to buy sour candy and ice cream at the Mexican candy spot down the block. 

Dinnertime meant me, my cousins, my brother, aunt + uncle and grandparents sitting on the floor around the coffee table for soup and shared dishes. The TV was always playing basketball and the rice cooker was always on the floor for easy access.

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What are your earliest memories of dining out?

Eva: Staying at Chinese restaurants for hours on end, with the adults shouting and laughing while pouring baijiu. Pulling at the lazy susan to get my favorite dishes, while my mom “tsked” at me to be more considerate of others still picking at dishes. Having all the uncles and aunties spooning heaps of food onto my plate, stating to me that, “it’s tasty, it’s tasty!”

Lots of small moments like that are forever embedded in me!


Emily: Going to those big Chinese restaurants in BK Chinatown with me and my whole family (all 17 of us!). My mom was always in charge of ordering. Usually by 9pm, we’d only be on our second course and I would be asleep across the restaurant’s chairs.

Was there a definitive moment or person that drew you to the restaurant industry?

Both: It’s something that’s always been embedded in our lives. Watching our parents do it and make beautiful lives for themselves was a huge inspiration to us, and they did it all while still learning English and the ways of the US - a lot of Land to Sea is a tribute to them.

As it was for lots of people, I think the pandemic fast-tracked our process. We both wanted work we could pour ourselves into, something meaningful - we always spoke about creating a safe space for creatives, especially those of color. That’s where Land to Sea started, and at its core it will always be that.

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If you could give a piece of advice to someone who wanted to pursue your career, what would it be?

Both: Things will probably not go according to plan. That’s ok and that’s what makes it fun! Lots of our growth has come from learning to roll with the punches. Learning that it’s normal to not know where to start, or what exactly comes next. Start with your foundation: what really matters, why you’re doing it and who you’re doing it for - the how of it all can come after. 

If you’re working with a partner, know that it will be tough, but it’s the most beautiful and gratifying thing to build something with a friend. It’s like we’ve gained another sister. There are highs and lows, for sure, but at the end of the day we’ve both grown so much together from this experience. 


What do you think working in this industry during this time has taught you?

Both: People come first. It’s all about taking care of each other first, making sure we are all healthy, both physically and mentally.

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What's your favorite dish/drink on the menu? 

Eva: Ham and Cheese Bolo Bao (pro tip: ask for chili cheeks to be added 😉)

Emily: Best duo: kaya toast + oat milk dirty chai for a light afternoon pick me up


What is your number one place to go out and eat, what are you ordering?

Eva: Birds of a Feather - Spicy Fish Filet

Emily: Guilty pleasure - Jongro!! The marinated beef platter but most importantly, the frozen mango bomb 😌 There’s nothing like it after a night out. 


Word Association


Caffeine

Eva: Cortado

Emily: Necessary


Munchies

Eva: TJ Peanut Butter Cups

Emily: Pickles


Shots

Eva: Espresso

Emily: Tequila???


Condiment  

Eva: Hot sauce

Emily: Kewpie


First Date

Eva: Innocence 

Emily: Awwwwkward


Home

Eva: Peace

Emily: Family


Vice

Eva: 3 coffees a day

Emily: Single’s Inferno


Future

Eva: West coast 👀

Emily: Whooo knows : )

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