A cold, rainy Monday night may have seemed like an odd date and time for a soft opening of a much-anticipated business in downtown Asheville. But the well-attended event at MG Road was testament to the local love for its owners, Molly and Meherwan Irani, and showed a curiosity about the new space — cozier and slower-paced than their restaurant upstairs at Chai Pani.
The couple opened Chai Pani in October 2009 and quickly garnered rave reviews from such publications as GQ and The New York Times. Then earlier this year they came to Mountain BizWorks for a loan to expand their business. Limited by the seating capacity of their current space, they were presented with an opportunity: Their landlord needed to fill the space that previously housed Spellbound Children’s Bookshop (which had moved into a space at ZaPow!). Located below their Battery Park restaurant, this location was enticing as it enabled them to share their current kitchen while creating a different look and feel, due to the separate entrance on Wall Street — and extending the spectrum of their passion for hospitality and culinary exploration.
We checked in with them recently to see how the transition was going and what others could learn from it.
How was the experience of opening MG Road different from when you opened Chai Pani?
So very different! We've grown in indescribable ways over the past three years, and primarily have learned how to work together and build a high-functioning team. We can now pay people for their herculean efforts to help us open; last time we had to pay most of our dear friends in future food credit! We've grown more confident in our ability to build a space that Asheville will love, and we've learned to trust our instincts on how to do that, which sometimes means tuning out a lot of well-intentioned advice. Opening a new venture is always a wild roller coaster, but we've learned how to hold on and enjoy the ride. There were still a few bitten nails and nights of lost sleep, of course.
What advice would you give another business owner looking to start a new venture on top of maintaining acurrent business?
Surround yourself with a really wonderful team. Hire people you genuinely like, not just those who perform well in interviews. Our staff is made up of dedicated people who are truly committed to good service, and who care about the business and its customers. Without that team, none of this would be possible.
You all seem to balance work life and family life really well. What’s your secret?
Again, we employ people we trust and who have our backs in a million ways. We are a group of friends and family who set out to follow a collective dream and with that support, anything is possible. Our keys to happiness in this business are to laugh a lot, forgive quickly, love the people you work with, always stay open to change, be fiercely protective about family time (but not rigid about when and how we get it) and to always remember what we truly love — each other.
MG Road is located at 19 Wall Street in downtown Asheville and opens nightly at 5 p.m.
Jennie Ramsey is the loan administrative assistant at Mountain BizWorks. For more information about small business loans from Mountain BizWorks, contact Jennie at 253-2834, ext. 11, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at mountainbizworks.org/lending .
Mountain BizWorks supports small businesses in Western North Carolina through lending, consulting and training. For more information, visit mountainbizworks.org.