Last week, the founders of Redwood announced the restaurant’s sale to Brenda Dunn and long-time employee Chantel Chinco. Located at 7915 SE Stark Street, this well-reviewed dining destination opened in early 2013 and will continue with new but familiar management. Maintaining Redwood’s quality and dining experience is the core focus as staff train for their new roles during the next few months.
After nine years of growing Redwood into the celebrated business it is today, Susie Blue, Austin Putnam, and Jessie Hawkins believed it was the right time to find a new owner for the restaurant. However, they wanted to sell it to a person who would preserve the same environment and keep Redwood’s culture alive. In the Fall of 2021, the group spoke to their employee, Chantel Chinco, about taking over Redwood. “They approached me probably about mid-September and just let me know kind of where they were at and that they were looking to sell the restaurant,” explained Chinco.
Redwood’s sale to Chinco fit in many ways and was an easy choice for everyone. “I’ve been an employee at Redwood for about five years now, and so I have a really strong relationship with Susie and Jesse,” said Chinco. At the time of sale, Chinco worked in nearly every customer-facing position; server, bartender, and front-of-house manager. Consequently, she has extensive knowledge of the operation and existing customer relationships. Most importantly, the founders trust that Chinco will keep the restaurant on its successful path.
After 20 years working in the service industry, Chantel Chinco feels owning Redwood is a natural career progression and the best opportunity to participate in a remarkable business. “It’s such an important part of the community and the kind of environment that Susie and Jesse built there you can feel the love in the restaurant, you can taste it in the food. It’s just something special, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Admiring Redwood’s existing culture and cuisine, Chinco and Dunn do not plan on changing much. “We’re going to keep our signature dishes. We’ve been working with Susie one on one to make sure that we can come as close to cooking her food as she does,” commented Chinco. Chef Susie Blue will stay on for a month to help train the kitchen staff. Like many restaurants, Redwood has struggled with staffing over the last two years. Most servers returned after they reopened from the pandemic closure. However, “back house has always been a struggle,” confessed Chinco. That is quickly changing as they train new cooks and expand the kitchen support. “Irene, who is our main prep cook, she does everything for us. She’s been with us for several years, and we just brought her daughter on for some back-of-house support as well. It’s a real family business,” Chinco remarked.
Chinco and Dunn are currently running Redwood with a focused schedule until they have a firm grasp on operations. “At this time, we just want to make sure that we get everybody properly trained for breakfast and lunch before we move on to bigger endeavors,” explained Chinco. “We would love to offer happy hour or dinner again at some point, but we do not want to compromise the quality and integrity that people have come to expect from Redwood by trying to do too many big things right off the bat.”
After staff are trained, and Redwood is back to a full schedule, the new owners will look at augmenting the menu with a few different items. “We want to keep the same Redwood that everybody loves and expects, but also introduce some of our own flavors and ideas,” Chinco explained. The pair hopes to offer a more comprehensive selection of fresh-baked pastries, weekday specials, and some dietary variety. “My partner Brenda is really excited about doing some more vegan and vegetarian options to make the menu a little bit more diverse,” added Chinco.
Changes at Redwood should be unnoticeable to the regulars but look for small additions over the year. Currently, they offer extended Brunch service from 9 AM to 3 PM Wednesday through Sunday with indoor and outdoor seating or takeout.
Disclosure: The author of this article serves on an association board with Chantel Chinco.