By: Sophie Lapkin, Local Business Partner
After hearing all the buzz surrounding Sonata’s Restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona, we sat down with COO Deividas Molocajevas to get the inside scoop. They’ve grown extensively since opening their doors this past October. What’s their secret to success? Deividas shares his story and the insights he’s gained along the way.
Why did you decide to start your business? Tell us your backstory!
I found my calling as a restaurateur pretty much by accident. While I was always eager to become an entrepreneur, I wasn’t sure which industry I wanted to enter.
When I was in Chicago earning a degree in Healthcare Management, I got to know Andrew and Laura Bucas. For my graduation, my family went to one of their Lithuanian restaurants for dinner. That relationship grew and they are now my current business partners. My family and I somehow convinced them to come out to Arizona to help introduce Scottsdale to the best of Old World European Cuisine. This was an opportunity to bring some of my Lithuanian roots to Scottsdale. It is a first for Scottsdale and a way for my family and I to bring the flavors we’ve missed so much to our community. As my mother, Sonata, says; “Before, if I wanted a taste of home, I would have to spend all day cooking. I figured other people are missing out on the tastes of the world, too. So why not bring some European flavors to Scottsdale?”
With my background in construction and management, my family and I quickly learned the “secret sauce” to running a business — people management, organization, and design, paired with the right business partners, Andrew and Laura Bucas.
After the foundation had been laid for Sonata’s, I needed to find an executive chef. After many interviews, I finally stumbled across Josh Bracher. He’s now Executive Chef of Sonata’s.
Little did I know, Josh had been preparing for his interview for quite some time. He had done extensive research on the Lithuanian culture and cuisine and with my mother’s arsenal of classic Lithuanian recipes, she helped Chef Josh create European comfort food — with an American twist and some Scottsdale flair.
He works very closely with my partners and me to ensure his dishes remain authentic, while also introducing the Scottsdale dining community to his creative approach to traditional European cuisine. As my mother, Sonata says, “We’re introducing people to ethnic dishes that are high quality, organic, healthy and creative”.
Why do you love doing business here in Scottsdale?
I LOVE living in Scottsdale. It’s a world of its own — my family is here, it’s easy to get around, it has beautiful scenery, beautiful weather, and good people. I want to continue to help the community and economy grow. That being said, I’m excited to share authentic Lithuanian food with my community. Sonata’s has helped fill a gap in our restaurant industry. I’m grateful is has been welcomed with such open arms.
What’s the most helpful piece of customer feedback you’ve received?
That’s a tough question to answer. I find that all of our feedback is helpful. Each customer offers a different perspective and more often than not, they have great recommendations for improvements. Our customers value the fact that they can provide us with their feedback, and many times we are actually able to implement their suggestions. Next time they come into Sonata’s and see their feedback actually implemented, it genuinely puts a smile on my face. Without this feedback, we wouldn’t be where we are today!
What’s your advice for other business owners or someone who wants to start a small business?
Well, this is a cheesy quote but I can’t help but live by it as it’s one of the many things my stepfather, Paul, has taught me; “Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you.” My stepfather has helped fund the entire opening and current operations for the restaurant due to his sheer love and passion for my mother, Sonata, and my family as a whole.
All my life I try be a sponge. I’m keen at recognizing good qualities and smart people and putting those people in the right positions. If I continue to learn from others, I can continue to develop myself and therefore, my business.
Put your employees into positions based on the understanding of their individual strengths and weaknesses and what they need and are looking for; once they’ve been placed into the right position, all you have to do is watch them grow!
The Phoenix metro area’s business community is rich with wonderful stories like Sonata’s Restaurant. Discover great businesses in your area by downloading the Yelp mobile app. If you run your own great local business, use the free tools available at biz.yelp.com to help tell your story and join the conversation!
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