Happy Pride Month, Yelpers! Each June, celebrations around the world commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969, a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality. Just as these events honor the struggles and advances of the gay rights movement, Yelp would like to celebrate how businesses with queer connections have shaped the cities that they call home. Follow along all month as we profile some of North America’s top LGBTQ small business owners, all Yelper approved.
It may be early in the morning, but the kitchen at Roz Edison’s Super Six has already sprung to life. The first full-service foray for their family of popular Hawaiian/Korean fusion restaurants known as Marination, Super Six opened in 2016 in a former auto body shop in the southeastern Seattle neighborhood of Columbia City. With selections ranging from musubi and lumpia to malasada and Hawaiian coconut cream pie, the Super Six menu is undeniably diverse. And as a values-driven company run according to a philosophy known as Everyday Aloha, that diversity is also reflected in both the staff and clientele. As we sit down at the bar, Roz pours herself a cup of coffee and begins to share her story.
You took an indirect path into the restaurant industry. How did you come to operate the Marination restaurants, and now Super Six?
My background is in public education, but I worked in restaurants throughout high school and college. It’s definitely been a circuitous path back to restaurants! I served in the Peace Corps, based in Romania. After getting my Masters of Education from Harvard, I was active in the Massachusetts charter school movement. I moved to the Northwest and at a dinner party in 2009, my now business partner Kamala Saxton and I began discussing the food truck trend and how it hadn’t yet hit Seattle. Somehow, one thing led to another and in a couple of weeks we owned a truck, and the concept for Marination was born.
What skills from your previous jobs made you suited for success in food and beverage?
Education is about expanding people’s understanding of the world around them, and restaurants are similar. We’re educating customers about Hawaiian and Asian cuisine. You educate the community about who you are as a business. And with the high rate of turnover in the restaurant industry, there’s constant staff education. I use my skills in education every day.
Serving a fusion of Hawaiian and various Asian cuisines, your business is inherently diverse. How does that value translate to your crew and management style?
We attract and retain employees who appreciate working in an environment that is inclusive and welcoming, where we let people be who they are. Our management style is straightforward: work hard and be nice. People don’t necessarily come to our company because we are gay/woman/minority owned, but they might stay a little longer because it’s a positive experience.
As owners, Kamala and I are incredibly hands-on. At some restaurants, owners let the chef run the show. Of course chefs are important to who we are, but we run the company. Being present on a daily basis ensures that in both our food and service, our values are reflected to the customer.
You’re active with the Greater Seattle Business Association, the largest LGBTQ chamber in America, and arguably the world. How did you first learn of the GSBA and how has that affected you and your business?
I first began work with the GSBA in 2016 when I participated in a community-building training for women entrepreneurs. I joined the board in January of this year, and I work with the GSBA Leadership Academy, developing curriculum for a three day retreat for their scholars.
It’s definitely a positive connection to have. They’re a very well respected network, so to be known as a member is good for business. And we like knowing that supporting them helps to support the future leaders of this country. They fight for the rights of small businesses every day, but not just from a capitalistic perspective. They look at civil rights. They use the economic impact of small businesses to push forward a civil rights agenda.
How do you define success?
Thats a great question. I’m a perfectionist, so I don’t know that I’ll ever truly think that I’m successful. But success is being able to take care of yourself, your family, and the people you care about. To have a positive impact on our communities and to give to the causes you care about. When I can do that, I’m successful.
If you could dramatically shift careers once again, what would you like to do?
I would probably do something in the tech industry, while Kamala would likely go into some form of a clothing line. Both of us have a dream to start a foundation that supports a cause that we mutually care about. That would likely be in the realm of girls’ education or entrepreneurs.
If you could spend a full day visiting your favorite Seattle sites and businesses, what would you do?
I’d start with a walk in Seward Park off Lake Washington and then I’d go to Dim Sum House. I’d love to go down to the Pike’s Place Market, you truly can’t go wrong with an afternoon there. Afterwards, I’d catch a movie at Cinerama. Then dinner at Brimmer & Heeltap in Ballard, where I’d get a cocktail and an order of toast. Finally, my night would end with a nightcap at Good Bar in Pioneer Square.
Alright, the floor is yours: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
We love being business owners in Seattle, being part of the fabric of the city. We hope that the city does its best to hold onto the small business scene.