A little over four years ago, the information technology industry brought Kevin Stanley to Reno; however, Reno had very different plans for him. Those plans were set into motion when Kevin met Kaya, the love of his life. Not long after they met, Kevin realized he had landed in the perfect place to build his dream business.
Kevin had 24 successful years in the technology industry, but it was empty to him. He wanted more. He wanted to do something that brought joy to people. He missed the human connection.
“When people go out to eat and drink, they are typically enjoying themselves,” Kevin said. “It’s where I wanted to be.”
Things kicked into gear shortly after he met Kaya Bromley. She became his self-proclaimed inspiration. And, if you’ve ever had the chance to sit and talk with Kaya, you will understand. Kaya has an innate ability to ignite energy and excitement in the people around her. From the day they met, they talked about their dreams and aspirations.
It wasn’t long before the opportunity arose for Kevin and Kaya to build their first restaurant, Rue Bourbon … and that’s when the true fun began.
Kevin and Kaya went back and forth on a couple different concepts. After much brainstorming, the New Orleans theme stuck. The only issue was this — the space didn’t really have room for a kitchen, and they knew they needed to provide food as well as drinks to create venue they were dreaming of.
“Cities across the United States, whether it’s San Francisco, New York, New Orleans or Boston, people create these really cool places with very little room and space,” says Kevin. “And a lot of them turn out amazing food, not all of them but a lot of them. So, we decided to go with a minimal kitchen but really focus on the quality, the atmosphere, and our service.”
Kevin and Kaya have made Rue Bourbon a very casual gathering place where people feel at home.
Just recently, they branched out and acquired a thriving restaurant in downtown Reno, Old Granite Street Eatery. With the rich history and prior success of this iconic Reno location, the changes they have in store for this location will be subtle but impactful as they work to grow the brand to it’s full potential while continuing to provide excellent service, food and drinks.
I was able to sit down with Kevin and Kaya for a Q&A session. I’m thrilled to give you all the opportunity to read more of their story.
Q: Why did you choose Reno?
KEVIN: I think it’s better to say that Reno chose us. It was easy to just fall into this town. Reno has such a strong western influence with almost a Midwest culture, it reminded me of where I’m from — Michigan. When I first moved to Reno, I didn’t know what I was doing but then it just began to grow on me. The community, the people and especially the growth. The focus on growth here is huge. Reno, at large, has been open to our investment and to helping us succeed.
Q: What were your biggest hurdles and how did you overcome them?
KEVIN: I’ll be honest with you I don’t feel like I’ve had any big hurdles. I was able to pull together an excellent collective of industry personnel and we all have worked together to simply figure out the problems that arise. I truly don’t feel like there has been any obstacles that have been significant.
KAYA: That’s because it’s him. Most people start a restaurant because they like a certain genre of food or simply because they like to eat, Kevin is a business person. He ran huge global operations so he’s just taking the same business acumen he has used in the information technology field and put it into restaurants. For him, everything is not a hurdle it’s just what’s next.
KEVIN: You just figure it out as you go along. I don’t claim to know everything, but I surround myself with people that know a lot about different things. There is always a way to figure it out.
Q: What is your favorite item on the menu and why?
KAYA: At Old Granite Street Eatery, it’s the bread pudding hands down! It is like Christmas and Birthday’s and happiness. It is the most amazing thing that I have ever put in my mouth … ever. And, at Rue Bourbon, it’s the Muffuletta.
KEVIN: I love the gator at Rue Bourbon. Well, really, it’s not just the gator – it’s the gator with the house remoulade, so delicious! At Old Granite, I’m all about the pork belly with grits.
Q: What dish or drink keeps the lights on?
KEVIN: At Old Granite Street Eatery, it’s our wine, burgers and fish & chips. At Rue Bourbon, it’s the swamp fries, po-boys and the Fat Tuesday drinks.
Q: How often do you change the menu?
KEVIN: At Rue Bourbon, since it’s been the first year of operation, we’ve worked on focusing on what works. We are just getting ready to move into a phase where we will be changing the menu every quarter. We plan to do the same at Old Granite Street Eatery.
Q: Parking is sometimes an issue, where should your guest park?
KEVIN: At Old Granite Street Eatery, street parking during the day and after 5 pm, the lot to the east is open and free to the public. At Rue Bourbon, our guests can use the entire parking lot behind the building or street parking.
Q: What is your dress code?
KEVIN: Both places are casual
KAYA: Unless it’s a themed night then we love for our guests to join us and our staff as we dress for the theme!
Q: What kind of feedback is important to you?
KEVIN: Service, Product, Atmosphere (in that order). If people don’t have good service and aren’t comfortable, they aren’t going to waste time on your product.
KAYA: We want all feedback! We do this because we want to make people happy. We want people to talk to us and to talk to the managers. We want to hear feedback so that we can be better. There are service issues that we can’t know about unless our guests tell us. And, you can be sure, as soon as we hear about any issues, we address them.
KEVIN: One of the best groups that came in when we first opened were the Yelp Elite’s. They came in, tried everything and gave us feedback. They pointed out some things on the menu that should be fixed, I immediately redesigned it and had it reprinted within a week. We loved the feedback and wish everyone would share with us, in person!
KAYA: Michael Tragash, Yelp Reno’s Community Manager, did that too. We didn’t know who he was, but he was sitting at the bar and just started chatting with us. It was so awesome, he sat and talked to us for about an hour. He actually cares about this community and the businesses here, it came across in everything he said and did. We appreciate that he took the time to talk with us in person, to help us find things we may have overlooked or missed.
Q: How would you like to receive feedback?
KEVIN: In person, always.
KAYA: But even if you can’t get us in person – all our staff has our numbers and Kevin & I directly manage the social media channels. A direct message comes right to us. We are very hands on with everything.
Q: Do you have a favorite inspirational quote?
KEVIN: “I’d rather attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed.” Robert H. Schuller
KAYA: “Whenever possible be kind, it’s always possible.” Dalai Lama
Q: How do you feel about the Reno food scene?
KEVIN: I think Reno has pockets of brilliance but also has a lot of opportunity to grow.
KAYA: I always go to places and wonder what it was like to be there during its heyday. It is so exciting to be part of it here; it’s only going up and to be part of that is thrilling for us.
Q: How have the other businesses around you supported your endeavors?
KAYA: Rum Sugar Lime’s staff came over and helped us open. When we would need things like simple syrup or ice or anything really, they would bring it over. So many of the members of The Midtown Merchants Association have stepped up to be supportive. Sup’s Kasey & Christian Christiansen have been so fabulous to us! Everyone is so willing to share resources. One day, while we were in the middle of doing our build out at Rue Bourbon, I went into Jostella. I let them know we were going in down the street and we just started talking. I saw their t-shirts and mentioned how cool I thought they were, and they were quick to share with me who makes them. Jesus Gutierrez, the owner of Mari Chuy’s Mexican Kitchen, posted about our grand opening at Rue Bourbon on his social media and celebrated with us. People have been so supportive of us. They weren’t just coming in to check us out, they were coming in to hang out with us and wish us luck!
A few more that need to be named are Centro, Coffeebar, Michael & Son’s Jewelers, and Press Start. Greg Bucheister, the owner of Coffeebar, supported us so much so that he had his big Christmas party at Rue Bourbon. I’ve never seen a community so supportive. In the beginning we must have run out of printer tape over 16 times and Press Start’s owner just gave us printer tape, no questions asked. Who does that?!? Reno.
KEVIN: The first person I hired to help get this going was Charlie Nguyen. We wouldn’t be where we are without him. With Charlie’s help, we were able to secure Eric Schoenfeld-Mineur as our manager. Eric is so well known in the industry and has worked with so many brands, having him on our team has really set us up for success. We have big plans for him!
We’d also like to give a shout out to Tyler Colton who just opened The Emerson. He was a huge support to us when we opened Rue Bourbon and we wish him all the success in the world!
Q: What local vendors or suppliers would you like to give a shout out to?
KAYA: First on the list has to be Blake Smith, our landlord. He has been so excellent to us; we just can’t thank him enough for his support.
I’d like to share a cool story which almost sucked for us but ended up reminding us again, why we chose Reno.
Within a week of our lease signing, we found out about the Virginia Street construction. Instead of panicking, we decided to get everyone together and talk about what was happening and how we were all going to make it work.
The very next day we had a meeting scheduled with Reno City Council representative, Devon Reese (At-Large Reno City Council), the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County (RTC), Par Tolles (Tolles Development Company), Blake Smith (S3 Development) and several business owners from downtown and midtown.
This was amazing to us since we were no one at this point; however, we asked and they answered. RTC, with all their staff, showed up and explained everything. We walked away thinking about ways to make this situation an opportunity. Because we started working with RTC & Sierra Nevada Construction (SNC), they started holding events at our place. They were so supportive, and it has paid off, not just from their events but if we needed a sign to help guide our customers, we would have it within 24 hours. This usually takes two to three MONTHS! We would send Michael Moreno, RTC Public Affairs Administrator or Dan LeBlanc, VP of Construction at SNC, our request and the next morning it would be here. For as much as it was not ideal for us to have opened during construction, the support we received helped a lot.
KEVIN: It would be difficult to name all of the vendors and suppliers that have supported us, we are so grateful for each one. I would like to mention a few standouts including Southern Wine & Spirits, Breakthru Beverage, Vin Sauvage, US Foods, NV Distributors, Encore Beverage. I don’t know if everyone has such a great relationship with their distributors like we do but we truly feel like they are interested in building a relationship with us. It truly does not seem to be all about the sale to them. They are so supportive of us and have so many great ideas and tips that they share with us.
KAYA: Yes! When Kevin asked me to take over the wine list at Old Granite Street Eatery, Michelle from Breakthru Beverage came in and sat with me for several hours. We looked through the whole wine program and worked out a whole revamp, together. Kevin Riley from Southern Wine & Spirits is another person who has been priceless to us. He not only helped us get Rue’s wine program up and running, he taught us a lot about the industry.
Q: Is there anything else we should know about you?
KAYA & KEVIN: We love Reno and are committed to being here and all that entails. Besides our restaurants, Rue Bourbon & Old Granite Street Eatery, we are doing things with Opportunity Zones and with local developers. We are investing our money and our time here, because we believe in Reno and in the people that live here.
There are two Hungry in Reno events coming up with Kevin & Kaya and we’d love to see you! Click the links below for more information and to purchase tickets.