Photography by Jenny Berliner of Jenny Berliner Photography
Tell us a little about yourself & and what you do.
My name is Andrea Parros. I own and operate The Red Fern, an all vegan restaurant with gluten-free options on Park Ave.
What are you passionate about? What makes you tick?
Animal rights...which I suppose is obvious! Additionally, my work, yoga, dance, crafting, travel and human connections.
How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
I worked in restaurants and hospitality in the Boston area (where I’m from) throughout high school and college but never consciously sought a career in either field. I was studying Music Business at Northeastern University, hoping to promote indie bands or re-issue old rock & roll records. During the time I was studying, Napster came out and significantly changed the industry. Essentially, people went from buying albums to obtain music for free via unregulated internet downloads; this imploded the industry, and I believed there was no longer a job for me in the business. I took temporary work as a dishwasher at a vegetarian-friendly spot in Boston called The OtherSide Cafe. The first week of the job, the brunch cook quit. I was a casual home cook and asked if I could give the line cook position a shot; they skeptically obliged out of desperation, and I nailed it! This began my “training” in restaurant operations and management; I never went to school for cooking or took any formal training in restaurant management. I learned in “life’s classroom” there at the cafe, working every position - line cook, prep cook, server, floor manager, kitchen manager, prep manager and administrative assistant. Eventually, there was no place left to go up the ladder. My boyfriend at the time (who also worked at the cafe) expressed interest in moving back to his hometown of Rochester to open our own restaurant. Young, driven (and maybe a little crazy!), we took the chance; The Owl House opened in Fall 2010. By the end of 2012, our personal and professional relationship ended and I sold my half of the business to fund the startup of The Red Fern.
There are many potential challenges for business owners, but for me I faced doubt in my abilities for being a young, female business owner. Additionally, my kindness has been mistaken for weakness at points along the way, which gave rise to invaluable learning experiences on how to better assert myself and protect the business. Here in year three, staff is solid and we’ve worked out all the kinks!
What is your biggest regret?
I don’t regret a thing in life. Every life experience contains within it a lesson, so if you’re able to receive the message, there’s just nothing to regret!
What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
Recipe for starting your own business...
Measure the following, in equal parts:
A Plan (which is flexible and also contains backup plans!)
A “make it happen,” solution-based attitude.
Whisk the above well to combine. Season with a wee bit ‘o magic and some sparkles!
Lettering by Emma Rowlands
What inspires you? How do you recharge creatively?
Staying inspired and grounded is crucial; burnout rate in the restaurant business is extremely high! Daily yoga practice grounds me. Morning coffee ritual centers me and provides some “me time” to chat with friends or write and process my thoughts on my own. Every Saturday, I go dancing at Vertex - “Church,” we call it. It is so rejuvenating for me; with dance, I release all the stress from the week; it’s so transformative. I’m social and love exciting, stimulating environments like bars and clubs, but I also need quiet time alone to balance me out. I just bought a house this year, so it’s been awesome to set up my own nurturing space.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
The freedom! Both freedom of schedule and creative freedom. And how rewarding the work is. Our customers frequently feedback about their favorable experiences at the restaurant, and we have many regular customers that come 4 or 5 times a week! I’ve found that the vegan, gluten-free, health-conscious clientele are very appreciative and grateful for what we offer. It’s a special market.
Name some local creatives that you really admire.
There’s no one person in particular, it’s more the collective creative pool we have here in ROC. It’s a city of growth and opportunity, and the environment is so conducive to creative endeavors. The makers, creators and do-gooders make this such an inspiring city!