“It was a great place for us to operate; (but) it didn’t have good exposure because it didn’t face Sixth Street, it didn’t face Main. And a lot of people didn’t know we existed,” Huntington said of the former location across a parking lot from the Goodwill store.
Now Flavor Indian & Asian Fare, along with a new address at 501 Main Ave., a block-and-a-half is more like another world.
The enterprise is on the corner, fully exposed, but that’s just one of the advantages to the new location.
“Quite obviously, visibility,” Huntington said of the reason for the move. “We’re on one of the best corners of all downtown, we think. We got great landmarks … right across from the post office, right across from Nick’s (Hamburger Shop). We think we’re gonna have more customers because of the location and just the traffic. Honestly, a lot of people like to walk downtown and look at shops,” he said, adding he hopes that brings in new customers.
Huntington had played with the idea of owning a restaurant.
“I’m a chef by trade. I went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu. I always wanted to have just a small restaurant,” he said.
He’s worked at several resorts in upstate New York, several mom and pop stores, fast food places, and all sorts of food service spots.
He was food service director at the hospital for six years “when the opportunity presented itself for Flavor,” he said.
The previous owner was a woman from India whose husband had taken a job in Chicago. She had operated it for about four years.
“I was shopping in the store one day and she asked me if I knew anybody who’d be interested in purchasing her business. I thought it was a good idea; my wife didn’t,” Huntington said. Eventually he won over Jennifer, and they have been operating Flavor for a little more than three years.
“We consider ourselves a family-owned, family-operated restaurant,” Huntington said. “I’m in the kitchen, but my wife is running the dining room. My kids work here.”
They have Abby, 18; Hailey, 16; and Elliot, 12.
While the business has grown, Huntington knew they were losing out because they weren’t visible to people. Then another opportunity came up in the form of Dusten Hendrickson of Built Green.
“He came to us and said, ‘I’m buying this building and would like for you guys to be our renter. Your food is great, and we want people to know about you,’” Huntington said.
Huntington and his wife looked at the building in March 2017, then nothing happened until July. Their lease on the other location was up at the end of November, “so the timing worked out well, as far as when construction could be,” he said.
“This was Sioux River (Bicycles & Fitness), this part of the building and the one next door; actually we built this wall down the middle. It was originally J.C. Penney built in 1927, so it’s a historic building,” Huntington said.
He really likes that aspect of it.
“It’s got a lot of history to the building. Look at the ceilings, they’re the original tin ceilings. The molding and so forth, the 17-foot high ceilings. It’s just a neat building,” he said,
Bigger and better
Flavor will be able to offer more to new and returning customers, Huntington said.
He figures their space is “roughly double” what it was before.
“The other one was on a single level. Now we have a two-level store with an upstairs and a main floor,” Huntington said. “The restaurant is also roughly double the size.”
The store has ingredients from all over the world, especially India, Korea, China, Africa, Nepal, and Middle Eastern items, he said.
“We’ve brought in some new products that we didn’t have. Our main clientele is the international community of students and also foodies who find a recipe online and want to come in and get the kind of ingredients they can’t find anywhere else,” Huntington said. “We want to get some American staple grocery items … milk and bread and eggs and things like that.”
The store has been open for a few weeks, and they’ve been doing take-out, too.
“The response has been amazing. We have our established customer base that has been chomping at the bit for us to open. People have been having curry cravings really bad,” Huntington said.
The restaurant’s soft opening was Feb. 1, by reservation only.
At the old restaurant, they had 42 seats; in the new location, he’s planning for 75 with booths, tables and stools at the large windows. The larger size will help serve more customers and help eliminate waiting in line, he said.
Along with a longer name, Flavor will have an expanded menu. Old favorites like Chicken Tikka Masala, goat meat curry and naan bread – an Indian flat bread cooked in a tandoori oven – will be joined by pad Thai, some stir-fry dishes, and kimchi fried rice, Huntington said.
“We want to add some dishes from Thailand, Vietnam, Korea and other Asian countries to give Brookings some tastes that aren’t available anywhere else,” he said.
It’s a big undertaking, he knows.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit stressed about it,” he said, but overall, there’s a different emotion.
“We’re excited. We can’t wait for people to see our new place. It’s beautiful … it’s gonna be a real neat addition to downtown, giving people flavors that they may or may not have ever had before,” Huntington said.
Contact Jodelle Greiner at firstname.lastname@example.org.