Lemon Grass Owners Purchase Building to Launch New Restaurant Concept
Chef Ann Ahmed opening Lat 14 Asian Eatery in Golden Valley this summer with help of gap financing provided by Open to Business
Lemon Grass Thai restaurant, tucked into a strip mall nearly hidden behind a grocery store in the northwest suburb of Brooklyn Park, doesn’t enjoy the best visibility. But during the 12 years they’ve been in business, owners and chef Ann and her business partner Tarique Ahmed have grown Lemon Grass from a 10-table hole-in-the-wall to a full-service bar and restaurant with 43 employees. How did the Ahmeds manage such tremendous growth with a low profile and zero investment in advertising?
“If you have good food and good service, customers will find you,” said Tarique Ahmed.
Experienced Chef Offers Unique Flavors
Chef Ann grew up in a Minnesota restaurant family before moving to San Diego to become a teacher. But her love of food called, and she moved back to Minnesota to open Lemon Grass in 2005. She quickly became known for her non-traditional blend of Laotian, Thai and San Diego flair.
She’ll carry on that innovation at a new concept called Lat 14 Asian Eatery. The restaurant will offer a mix of Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese, Malaysian, Filipino, and chef Ann’s family’s native Laotian flavors, all located along the line of Latitude 14O north in Asia.Restauranteurs Turned Real Estate Owners
Although the Ahmeds rent the Lemon Grass restaurant space in Brooklyn Park, they wanted the stability of property ownership as they open Lat 14 Asian Eatery. They scoped out what they thought was the perfect location in an abandoned warehouse in Minneapolis. But their banker wasn’t happy with the purchase price and refused to authorize a loan.
Seeking seasoned real estate expertise, the Ahmeds turned to Open to Business Advisor Rob Smolund. Smolund liked what he saw in the Ahmeds’ business plan, but agreed that the asking price of the proposed location was too high. He promised to help the Ahmeds line up financing for the new restaurant if they could find a more favorable location.
“That’s when I knew I could count on Rob, because he wasn’t trying to sell me anything,” Tarique said. “Rob immediately became my new sounding board for real estate decisions.”
New Asian Fare for Golden Valley
The Ahmeds went back to the drawing board and quickly put in an offer on an affordable restaurant space in the nearby suburb of Golden Valley. Unfortunately, the Ahmeds had a financing gap with less than two weeks from the scheduled closing. Open to Business stepped in and provided gap financing that helped the Ahmeds close the deal and move forward with their vision for Lat 14 Asian Eatery.
“The turnaround time was impressive,” said Tarique. “Without Open to Business and the program’s ability to act quickly, this deal would not have been possible.”
With the building secured, Lat 14 is scheduled to open this summer with a full bar, a private dining area, and patio seating. Chef Ann is testing new recipes, and the Ahmeds look forward to serving new and old customers at the new space, potentially as soon as August. Until then, customers can continue to enjoy Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine at 8600 Edinburgh Center Drive in Brooklyn Park.
Visit Lemon Grass Thai Cuisine online at lemongrassmn.com.