This may be the first of many articles written about my family’s restaurant, Kings Wine Bar. It may be the last as well, as I am pouring my heart out before I have to leave my house for my third to last shift at Kings. The news struck town on Tuesday on social media that my family sold our restaurant a few days ago to an outside corporate buyer. With our final day approaching very soon this Saturday (3/24/18). I just wanted to tell a quick anecdote about this crazy little thing called owning a family restaurant.
My parents living the dream.
When my Father moved me out to Los Angeles to attend film school, we visited my second cousin who owned a chain of pizza restaurants in Pasadena. She told us about the business and offered to franchise the company out in Minneapolis. As business goes, things fell through. My Mother suddenly was all in for owning a restaurant. The concept still remained to own a pizza restaurant.
Despite that my dream didn’t come true of becoming a filmmaker, the silver lining was that my Mother’s dream was going to come true.
After hunting for spaces, investors, and talking to many consultants we found a charming little neighborhood spot called Kings Wine Bar. My parents knew it had a lot of potential in the historic neighborhood of Kingfield in South Minneapolis.
It happened so fast. I was stunned. My family and I had no previous experience in the industry. It was crazy bloody bedlam from purchasing a restaurant, then having to bartend during the first two weeks of my parents buying Kings with zero experience being a bartender before. But, all we had was a remarkable Mother with a dream to share her food with the entire world, and we wanted to support and protect her dream.
My family was in a whirlwind, and so was the Kingfield neighborhood. The possibilities were endless. We had a restaurant in South Minneapolis, it was badass, romantic, and life was all but a dream. As I have written before on my blog, achieving your dreams are amazing but living them out is the greatest challenge. My parents had many plans for the restaurant and they executed it very effectively. They became the first Pan-Asian wine bar in South Minneapolis, or maybe in the Twin Cities. The first thing that we did was that we rolled out what Jim Walsh proclaimed as “The Best Pho in Town”.
I am proud that we sold thousands upon thousands of bowls of pho and over 400,000 thousand egg roll’s in the last three years, my Mother’s specialties.
My family pioneered many new precedents. Of the many, the most notable to mention the great events that have never been done before such as “Pho/Streetfood/Asian Tacos Your Way.” We consistently had the musicians Billy Johnson and El Vikingo perform at our restaurant. We created “Souper Bowl” week to celebrate the Super Bowl with new soups that we put on special.
The last thing that we will set a precedent for is to come out with a craft sake bomb entitled, “The Minnesota Sake Bomb”. Mixologist Ryan Martinez-Garcia developed this craft cocktail to celebrate our final weekend. He is a known craft cocktail artist that I consulted with for Kings to become the first craft sake cocktail bar in South Minneapolis. But, due to the abrupt selling of Kings, this pioneering vision of mine will be held to a halt. But, that will not stop me from selling his amazing sake bomb which will consist or Loon Juice Cider, and a bay leaf spiced infused sake shot that will be dropped and pounded by our loving customers. It will be unforgettable.
At Kings, I was able to be the first “Kung Fu Bartender” in the Twin Cities, as I would wear my kung fu outfit on Saturdays. Photo credit: Shane Hudak
We have created many new precedents in this industry but I am the proudest of one thing. My Father and I created an unofficial program of hiring all student’s from Washburn Highschool to learn the ins and outs of the business. Together we created a system of training and development that cross-trained these kids how to perform tasks from everything as wait assisting, dishwashing, prep cook, cold side cook, and hot side cook. The next phase of this program that we had was to teach all of them to become servers when they turned 18 years old. I am devastated that this did not happen as we only have two 18-year-olds on staff. But, I was able to train one of these remarkable kids on how to do barbacking duties.
When Frankie turned 18, I trained him to be my Saturday night barback. Here he is trying to pour the perfect glass of wine for the first time. I can’t help but laugh at this photo every time I see it.
With that, all of the 15 kids who work for us are now able to get a job at any restaurant as they leave for college next year due to this amazing experience. I think that is pretty incredible that we were able to do that.
Never will they be able to have an experience of going to work with all of their best friends from school, having a blast at work, and doing incredibly crucial duties to make a business run. They will never have a boss that will be as cool as I am as well. Let’s not forget about that.
Hakim (Eli), The Bridge Kid (Griffin), and OG Paul enjoying a coke and some fries after another busy night. Yes, we all had nicknames and insanely hilarious inside jokes that you are all on the outside of. Be jealous.
I will miss my staff the most. As the assistant general manager, they weren’t even my employees, they were a part of my family. Along with my family, I now have three older sisters, two uncles, nine little brothers, and one baby sister named Annie.
I’ve enjoyed every second of attempting to be a good role model for all of our Washburn kids. I will miss them the most. These are kids who had the responsibility for their education, extra-curricular activities with sports and musicals, their co-curricular activities at Kings, and their own individual passionate pursuits in life. When I was their age, all I did was play hockey and that was my focus. This gave me a great life-changing perspective now as I look back at my youth.
They came to work every day with crucial responsibilities that ran a multi-million dollar establishment, and they stepped up to the challenge every single day.
I am so proud of my family and what we have been able to give to the past kids and especially the current ten of them, “The Badboys and the Supergirl” of Kings Wine Bar.
The list goes on and on towards all of the things that we did differently for a restaurant, and for all of the amazing events that we did. But, the best part was that I got to see my entire family on a daily basis. Not many adults get to have that.
I am going to miss seeing my Mom every day, and I’d never thought I was going to say that again. The last time I said that was on my first day of pre-school as she left for work. But, what I can’t handle is how much everyone loved my Mom and how they sacrificed their sweat, blood, and tears for her. Every time I think about that it brings me to tears. Especially the Washburn kids, they loved my Mom like she was their own mother. It wasn’t a job to them, it was and always will be their family.
I will never have a greater honor or achievement in my life than to have worked for my family and to support my Mother’s dream.
It has been an honor for my family and me to have provided a wonderful place to have a great experience in the Kingfield neighborhood.
Kings Wine Bar was not only my Family’s restaurant, it was a restaurant that was disguised as our living room. Thank you to everyone who came to hang out with my family and eat our food in my living room.
My favorite photo of my Mother, working so hard. This picture inspires me every time I see it as it shows us what hard work really is about.
In the big picture, I am so proud of my Mother, and I am so set at ease that she will not be working 100 hours a week anymore, which included many hours of her corporate job at Medtronic. I can finally start to not worry about her health. Every night after work I would walk her to her car and kiss her goodbye and say a little prayer to God that she wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel.
We never “called it quits”, this was all about her health and for her to relax for the first time in three and a half years, which is the reason why we sold it.
We never quit, because all of us will move on and pursue other passions and dreams with the positive preserving perspective that Kings Wine Bar stowed upon us.
As I raise this imaginary glass of Trapiche Broquel Malbec, here is to all of you. To my new friends and family. You all made this wild rollercoaster of a ride for my Mother, a Chinese immigrant from Vietnam, with a dream of sharing food to Kingfield one of the greatest experiences of her life.
From the Kings family to yours, we love all of you so much.
Remember, “The Zos Knows”.
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