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Restaurateur? Try Restaurateuse.
By Christine Stoddard
Photo taken by Style Weekly for Deveron Timberlake's story.
Imagine owning three booming businesses, marrying an ex-male model, and giving birth to a healthy baby boy—all by age 23. That's the accomplished life of the young and ambitious Thai-American, Holy Yang (pronounced Holly.)
“Instead of switching majors, I switch business ventures,” Holy quips of her entrepreneurial whims. Not to call herself fickle, but Holy's business ventures are varied.
Two years ago, Holy opened Made in Asia, an upscale Thai and Pan Asian joint in Chesterfield, Virginia that brings urban cool to suburbia. Since then, the full-service restaurant, bar and sushi bar has held benefit nights, hosted concerts and even sponsored a Mrs. Virginia contestant. Take-out and catering services bring the swanky Made in Asia dining experience to the home or office, too.
In 2011, Richmond Magazine named Made in Asia the city’s “Best New Restaurant.” At that point, Made in Asia had been open to the public a matter of mere months. Holy didn’t miss a beat.
Following Made in Asia’s instant success, Holy jumpstarted her marketing company, Yang Business Services, a firm that designs branding and promotional strategies for Richmond companies. Unsurprisingly, many of Holy’s clients are restaurants, especially the developing and recently established. Perhaps Holy’s most notable client is Bobalicious, the Virginia franchise specializing in frozen yogurt and boba drinks.
But Holy had another idea she couldn’t shake: A bright, trendy restaurant downtown that focuses on delivering fast but healthy Japanese cuisine and environmentally-friendly practices.
“You know how there’s the category of fast food that’s McDonald’s and Burger King? Then there’s Panera and Chipotle?” says Holy, “Think just one step up from Panera and Chipotle. Fast but not too fast, casual but not too casual.”
Holy’s next restaurant, A2, will be an Asian fusion affair offering gourmet food in a relaxed, futuristic setting. A2 will house the former Hunan Café space at 1112 E. Main St., Richmond, Virginia and serve up everything from gluten-free to vegan to meat-heavy dishes. A wireless ordering system, sustainable menus, motion-sensor light switches and a recycling program will ensure A2’s “positive impact on the city.”
Holy likens the stylish, green-minded concept to something you would see in New York City or even Tokyo.
“Richmonders need A2 because it will give them the experience they seek in other cities,” Holy says, “but it’s still tailored to the needs of Richmond.”
A2 opened for lunch yesterday; it will open for its first dinner on Saturday.
If Holy’s know-how and dedication leave you slack-jawed, there’s more to her story: This restaurateuse on the rise quit college at age 19 to start putting her business smarts into practice. The Detroit native moved to Richmond four years ago with her husband, Kevin Guoto, to help her sister-in-law, the owner of Asiana Bistro in Powhatan. After two months, the couple fell in love with Richmond’s “small town in a big city” feel. At that point, they decided to stay in Richmond and began planning their restaurant dreams.
“You can't teach how to become an entrepreneur,” Holy says, “You need the drive and passion for business and you just have to do it. I’ve been there painting my own walls and doing the elbow grease work.”
This story also appeared in the December 2012 issue of Belle Magazine.