On Wednesday December 10 we will be celebrating around here in a big way. Ariana Restaurant will have been in business for a decade! So much has transpired in ten years, it can be overwhelming when we reflect on what has been. In ten years our restaurant family has had two weddings, four babies, lost people we have loved, met people who brighten our lives, been schooled on the type of people we allow into our lives, learned more about food and wine than ever expected, but more importantly learned the importance of serving people. Not serving in the way of waiting tables, being of service to people in a way that satisfies a human need of giving and receiving love and care. Our method is with food and drink and thoughtfulness, and we are so happy that you get it, and you love us too.
As we prepare for celebrating with our friends and family we reflect on how very grateful we are. We are grateful for our origin families, we are thankful for the family we have created in our restaurant, we are thankful for the community of customers whose love and loyalty keep our business thriving. It is because of you all that visit our restaurant that we support our families and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for allowing us to do what we do.
Love, The family at Ariana
A Special Letter from Ariana
Happy Anniversary to Us
December 10, 2004 we opened the doors of Ariana restaurant, a couple walked in. To this day I still get excited about that first table. To look back on it now after all that we have learned I still can’t believe we did it.
Andres and I had worked together for two years at a restaurant. I had always tried to keep my eyes and ears open about how the restaurant actually ran. We had fallen in love and dreamed about having a place to call our own. We stayed up late talking about what we would put on the menu, how we would do things. We looked at a couple of spaces that were for sale.
My parents were ready for something different and they loved Bend and decided to call it home. Both had worked in restaurants through college. They too fell in love in a restaurant they worked in. For some reason that may be chalked up to mid-life crisis they offered to partner with us in a restaurant. We visited banks, I brought passionfruit cheesecakes and we were told no at every turn. Restaurant failure rates were thrown out as the obvious reason, but I was 21 at the time, and none of us had owned a restaurant before. Instead of giving up the dream, my parents offered to invest their retirement savings. While we wanted to continue with our venture, the pressure of my parents’ savings wore heavily on us.
The search for spaces began, and was arduous. Nothing was right, the feeling was always off. We met with our realtor and explained our perfect space, one we could live in. If we didn’t know much about running a restaurant, we knew how much time we needed to spend in it, and living there seemed sensible. Almost immediately our space fell in our lap. It was perfect. The juju was just right, there was an apartment above, not downtown, in a growing area, the people selling the business were lovely.
It was a much loved coffee shop then. We worked day and night scrubbing, painting, making it our place. We hired servers, my Mom worked the dining room and bartended, my Dad worked in the kitchen with Andres and I, my brother Gordon washed dishes, my brother Grant built our website. Ten days after picking up our keys we opened our doors.
We made mistakes. We knew food, and we executed the food with heart. The business was always a learning experience. We had to hire more help, I had to learn to trust my gut above all else. The family dynamic started to change, the lines of work and family got muddied. We fought, we thought about closing the restaurant to save the family.
Andres and I were married, and soon we were expecting. I worked through my pregnancy and when our daughter Gabriella was born we stopped the fighting. We needed her to remind us what was really important. Gabi would sleep in the bassinet while we prepped in the kitchen. She grew up in the restaurant.
Gas prices rose to four dollars a gallon and the housing market crashed. We struggled. Restaurants were shuttering every week. We went back to a skeleton crew. The food remained the same; Andres would cut costs in any place but the food. There was no choice but to keep going, my parents’ retirement was still wrapped up in this place.
There were signs of improvement, we started filling up again, we hired people again. The scare of the recession made us stronger and better in our business, we started to grow. We held a wedding for a tremendous couple that we will never forget.
Andres and I had our second daughter Isabel. My dad helped us with the kids while we worked. Our daughters bring us the greatest joy and deepest love. Balancing time with them is easier living upstairs, and only possible with help from our family.
This year was filled with the highest highs and lowest lows. In the spring one of our own was diagnosed with cancer. It shook us all, we cried together, and then we rallied in support. Our restaurant family, but our community came together to give. I’ve never felt such love come from so many at once and it was awesome. We are so fortunate to live in this place of generous caring people. In April we cooked at the James Beard House in New York City, a professional achievement that we would only dream of. It was one of the greatest experiences we have ever had as chefs.
Over the years we change, we learn, and we grow. Andres is a rock, driven by a deep love of food and sharing it with others. He teaches by example and his cooks give him their best. Our kitchen is focused, but full of laughter. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, we are lucky to do what we love. My Mom still works the dining room and bartends with the same energy she did ten years ago. My Dad manages our wine program but still sneaks into the kitchen to cook sometimes, he’s also number one nanny when Andres and I are both working. I spend time in the kitchen and the dining room, which has brought me so much joy being able to connect with our customers. My first love will always be cooking, but the human connection and care that our service staff gives is like no other. My passion for this restaurant has steadily grown over the years and I am so lucky to be able to serve people in this way.
The heart of our restaurant is the four of us owners, but our success is due in great part to the amazing people who have entered our lives at just the right time and brought their unique talents. The kitchen crew: Every cook in our restaurant has started dishwashing and moved up the line. They have started as boys and left as men. We push them to do more and be more and they always do. They are as skilled as any cooks in any kitchen. They have a dedication to their craft that is obvious in the care and love they put in every dish that leaves our kitchen.
Nick Veenstra, one of our first cooks to move up the line and work side by side with Andres. So green to start and fast to learn, he developed a love for cooking that he keeps today as head chef of Pappa Joe’s restaurant in Holland.
Drew Montgomery, soft spoken and loyal Drew quietly absorbed everything Andres taught him and never complained. Drew’s work ethic is hard to find.
Alex Chidester, one of the youngest to start in our kitchen, we’ve watched him grow in so many ways. Focused and careful about every plate that leaves his hands, his skills have developed into some of the best.
Ted Ostrye, sweet and kind and always ready to help, Ted has a love of good food and an eye for detail.
Mike Nieto, always smiling and cheerful, he brings a light into our kitchen and is a workhorse for some of the most underappreciated of tasks.
Our service staff is world class, not in just the obvious ways of knowledge and professionalism which they have in spades, but in the way they connect with people. I have been witness to the love shared between them and our customers and its amazing.
Cara Mullis, we were truly blessed to hire Cara from the coffee shop when we bought our business. She has been with us since the beginning and is one of the kindest and most positive people I’ve met. We have watched her marry her best friend, and bring two beautiful children into their family. She is a special woman with a beautiful heart, and an integral part of our family.
Stephanie O’Brien, the funniest person we know, always able to diffuse a stressful situation with humor and grace. She has an amazing memory for her customers and they love her dearly. After seven years she is taking time to focus on her health and family. She will forever be a part of ours.
Anna Higgins, sweet and loving Anna was a calming and gentle force in our restaurant. She has taken her skills to serve families all over central Oregon.
Bosten Ingram, so incredibly hardworking and fast. Bosten is one of the most genuine people you will ever meet. Currently studying nutrition, we miss her smile and her heart.
Ron Lybeck, a consummate professional with more experience than anyone who has ever worked in our restaurant. A lover of wine and good food. He is gifted with the ability to make someone feel like the center of his world.
Cara Nickerson, a smile that can literally brighten the room and lift your spirits. So very hardworking and thoughtful, beautiful inside and out.
Destiny Sinacola, she is able to connect with her tables in a unique and fun way. A world traveler, always intriguing, we are never bored with Destiny around.
Brett Larson, professional and precise, Brett has a deep knowledge of food and wine and has brought us an extra layer of polish.
Andres says there is an ecosystem in every restaurant. It has its own energy that is fed by the people who work there, the energy they bring, the customers’ energy. It carries its own pulse, its heartbeat. Ours beats strong and true with passion love for what we do, who we are, the people we serve. Sharing ourselves feels vulnerable at times, and we usually keep things to ourselves. But our hearts are overflowing with pride for this business, for this family we have created. We love you and wish to keep growing with you for as long as we can.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for these incredible ten years,
Ariana, Andres, Susan, Glenn