In celebration of National Small Business Week

05/06/19

Author: Elisa Laurel, MPA, MCR

In celebration of National Small Business Week, the County talked with one of the creators of Aroi Mak Mak, a new restaurant in Redlands dedicated to authentic Thai street food. Bryan Bruce is co-founder, restaurant designer and beverage director for the new eatery that in Thai means “very, very tasty.”

Tell us about the concept:

While there's an overly saturated market in Redlands as far as Thai food is concerned, what our team felt was missing was a menu authentic to Thai street food. The team is very familiar with Thailand and from multiple visits and research we crafted a menu that is what we call “the working man's Thai food.” It’s accessible food for everybody that is meant to be shared. So our entire focus is on the food, the drinks, and the atmosphere. The flavors are a little less refined and more brazen. They are salty, spicy, sour –the way street food is served and experienced in Thailand.

Tell me about the team:

I'm a bartender by trade having worked in multiple bars all over the country and I have a background in graphic design so my focus is the restaurant design and the bar. Another partner and head chef is Ryan Berk, founder of Parliament Chocolate and A La Minute ice cream in Redlands. Ryan curated all the food and the concept. Ryan’s wife Cassi Berk is another partner. She’s the brains. The glue. The administrative side of things is so important. That is not a skill set a lot of us possess. Two of our other partners Kop and GOP are brothers and are both from Thailand. They understand the authenticity of the food, the culture and the people of Thailand and have been cooking this kind of food for years in their kitchens at home, and sharing it amongst friends. So we knew the community and had been testing things out for some time.

What do people want in restaurants today?

This generation, we want to make things ourselves and do things ourselves, and I think there are many people within the community that feel that way. So for example, while we have noodles on the menu, we are refining our own versions of that and making all of our noodles in house. We have two different dishes that utilize our house-made noodles and then we have three different styles of rice that we're serving in our restaurant as well. The menu itself is also very much like a return to the traditional Thai restaurant.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

You need the right partners. Our restaurant works because the partnership works. We're all complementary pieces. Restaurants are the highest failing businesses that there are in the first place.

The reason for that is because everyone thinks they can do it. Few people realize going into it just how hard it is. I feel blessed by the fact that my partnership group, every single person, has a different skillset and trait. Nothing falls by the wayside because if one person isn't good at something, the other person can carry that weight.

That is probably the number one thing that I've learned through this entire process. I've been trying to open bars and restaurants for a few years now, and this is the first one that stuck because of the partnership group that I have.

Aroi Mak Mak is located at 344 Orange St in Redlands.