(Photo: The Brown Owl founder, Lisandro Ramon, pours a drink at their recently opened brick and mortar location in the Box Factory | by Krystal Marie Collins)
A food cart craze sweeping the nation has not escaped Bend. Business mobility is attractive for many reasons. It provides opportunity to establish a community audience while keeping over-head low. Minus large lease payments for store fronts and barriers between customers and chefs, owner/operators can enjoy the freedom to create unique dishes which reflect the wants of locals. Success as a cart has allowed The Brown Owl to expand into brick and mortar where they continue to affordably satisfy hungry tummies across the desert.
First opening The Brown Owl in June 2013, Lisandro Ramon had many years of culinary experience as a foundation to his business endeavor. After receiving credentials to chef in his home state of Oklahoma, he interned in New Mexico, refining his skills with fusion French/Italian and American southwest flavors. He continued to lead fine dining and bistro kitchens until moving to Bend where he wanted to raise his three children.
Ramon shares, “As a chef, you’re always in the back of the house cooking, so the cart was a great combination of kitchen time and also being a server. Being the point person and talking to customers is really fulfilling.” He notes having fewer barriers between the person preparing the meal and the customer helps when deciphering what your audience desires.
Working hard to retain the cart vibe in his new space, Ramon utilizes a modern and innovative layout. Situated adjacent to the store front, the cart faces a giant roll up garage door which connects it to the dinning space. The cart continues to be the primary kitchen and where all ordering occurs. The open air set up seems to enhance customers and employee experience. Sous chef Randi Hobbs mentions through onion induced tears, “Working in a cart kitchen is awesome because you get outside space; you get air flow!”
Hoping to create a community vibe the restaurant caters to those who want to sit and chat, families or folks on the go. “The staff and I definitely want it to be a neighborhood spot,” Ramon says proudly.
Two sandwiches that can be enjoyed in shop or on the go are the chicken sando and a cubanosando. They are both made to order and everything is available gluten free. For beverages, The Brown Owl carries a permit to sell beers to go and boasts a range from two dollar PBRs to the wild fermented Ale Apothecary.
“Sometimes we get customers stopping in multiple times a day and we love that. The support has been overwhelming and we appreciate the regulars.” Ramon likens the atmosphere to the sitcom Cheers.
“The expansion was just that,” says Ramon. “It allowed for more space to sit, for a bar, for prep, for storage, but all the elements of the cart are still present, down to where the food is cooked. Actually, it’s the only place in the state that a person owns a cart and the property where it is parked. As an investor, my dad, Jose Ramon was a big part of that. Typically, there is separate ownership. It was a lot of work to get state approval, but it was worth it and I am extremely grateful to my father.”
Looking to the rustic reclaimed wooden patchwork walls, Ramon beams saying the build-out took one year and he is grateful to his landlord Jeremy McPhereson of Killian Pacific for helping execute the vision. Behind the bar, Ramon points to weathered white shelves and explains they are 100 years old and where a part of the original Box Factory, the districts name sake.
Currently, The Brown Owl is opened Tuesday-Sunday and is looking forward to hosting private dinners and events on Mondays in the future as well as selling jars of their pickled products already available with orders.
THE BROWN OWL
Founders: Lisandro Ramon and Jose Ramon
541-797-6581, 550 SW Industrial Way, Ste. 120
Where did the company name come from? My son Felix when he would make a funny mad face as a child and looked like an owl.
When did you open your doors? May 9, 2016
What is your product/market niche? Modern comfort food, craft beer, craft cocktails, beer to go and awesomeness
What has been your greatest success to date? Opening the full scale owl.
What is your companies number one goal in the next year? To grow and expand with food and drinks
What other ways is your company involved in the community? Loving our friends and family and expanding through food and beverage
No. of Employees: 20
Outlook for Growth: Expand eventually but excel in what we have now and focus on quality