We’re thrilled to welcome Deborah Dorman to our team of contributors and get her unique perspective on life and style through a monthly feature called #TryitYouMightLike. One of 80 million Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Deborah wants to represent her generation, and leave nothing unsaid. – editors
I’m a curious person. And I wanted to learn more about the Kosene family dynamic. The brothers, Mark, Gerry and David, have worked together for many decades. A few years ago, Gerry’s son, Michael, also joined the family business. What is their recipe for success. Meatballs maybe? I sat down with the owners of Mimi Blue restaurants to discuss the family business, failures and what they want to check off their bucket list this year.
What is your recipe for successfully working together for so long?
Mark Kosene: As brothers we know and understand each other extremely well and respect our differences. Each one of us has their specific role which plays to each of our strengths. Knowing we have each other’s back and always have each other’s best interest at heart is important, even when there’s constructive criticism involved. Family and integrity are always first and foremost.
Michael Kosene: There is not a formula. It is simply the fact that I admire my father and uncles’ way of looking at the world, and I share their work ethic and vision for the business. It makes it easy to work with someone like Gerry and David and Mark when you respect who they are and how they do business. The lessons they teach me every day allow me to constantly improve and grow.
What are the upsides and downsides of working with your family?
David Kosene: The upsides of working with family is working in an environment of unquestioned trust and naturally being more invested because the people you are working with are more than coworkers. The downside, your views are not as broad as they might be working with non-family members with diverse backgrounds, etc. Also, it sometimes doesn’t allow you to be as objective.
What prompted you to open Mimi Blues Restaurant, and how did you come up with the concept?
Gerry Kosene: My father was born in New York City and I have had a lifelong connection and great affection for the city. During the last 10 years, I have been living there part-time, which allowed me to objectively observe the food scene. I have always been fascinated by the restaurant business, but understanding the high failure rate of restaurants let alone a new unproven concept kept my interest at bay. Having more time available, I became immersed in my investigation and determined that a food concept that was unique, easily identifiable, affordable and offered in a comfortable environment would likely be welcomed in Indianapolis. I consulted with both my sons, (Alex who resides in NYC and Michael who worked for Simon Property Group) to get their thoughts. I then asked David to come to New York to share my experience. Michael then put together the financial projections and agreed to become the managing general partner. Alex Kosene provided branding and our brother Mark joined us as well as our partner Angie Guinn.
The 870 Mass. Ave. location was chosen due to Kosene and Kosene’s history of having developed residential buildings nearby as well as the appeal of the iconic historic building.
How much input did the three of you have in the menu and the aesthetic of Mimi Blue, and who did you work with to make it all look and taste so good?
Gerry Kosene: We used recipes from our mother Mimi (“Mimi Blue”), as the foundation of the menu. We developed the balance of the items through the contribution of recipes from family members, friends, the internet, recipe books along with our own spin. Having been a real estate developer and general contractor for over 47 years, we have the internal ability to provide design and construction services, which is a relatively easy process for us. We only use an architect to provide space planning and an engineer to design our mechanical system, all other services are internally produced by David Kosene.
Michael Kosene: We all had input yet the design work we left to my father, Gerry.
What is the most popular item on the menu? What are your favorite items? What’s the best beverage to drink with meatballs?
David Kosene: Brussel sprouts. Fried chicken sandwich. A good glass of red wine. More specifically the Klinker Brick Cabernet.
Michael Kosene: The most popular item on the menu is the brussel sprouts. My personal favorite is the briscuit.
Gerry Kosene: My favorite item on the menu is the chopped salad and orzo.
What advice would you share with a young person who wants to create and run a successful concept restaurant?
David Kosene: Commit the time and resources to intelligently research your concept and carefully plan the steps to transform your idea from a concept to a real operating entity. There are many steps required to launch a restaurant, the basic steps being business plans, assessing your finances, legal business structure, building your team, etc. My number one suggestion is to-refine your idea! Why are you launching your restaurant? Is it personal? Why? Meeting the needs of the marketplace allows your restaurant a better opportunity to create a larger and sustainable business.
Michael Kosene: Execute every day and do not ever take a short cut, no matter how small the task.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Gerry Kosene: “Know what you don’t know” and “Less is usually more.”
David Kosene: “Work smarter, not harder,” “Whenever possible always say “yes” to your wife,” and “Having a good name and reputation is paramount in business and life.”
Michael Kosene: Try to think differently than others to find a solution.
If you were given unlimited resources to change the world, what is the first thing you would do?
David Kosene: Fund well-intended research projects, support a path for everyone having access to clean water, and solving world hunger (especially for children).
Mark Kosene: That no one should go homeless and hungry. Help address mental illness and addiction issues.
Michael Kosene: I would provide educational resources and support for people who want it. People have so many excuses about why they can’t achieve. There is always a way but most people don’t know how to get there.
What is the most important life lesson you learned from your mother?
Gerry Kosene: Humility
David Kosene: The core value of tolerance, respect, compassion and an understanding that others, with their differences, can also be right!
Mark Kosene: Family first, integrity, and being grateful for what you have, instead of focusing on what you don’t have.
Michael Kosene: The best advice I learned from my father and my uncles is do what you say you are going to do and treat people fairly.
How do you deal with failure?
Mark Kosene: It’s ok to fail but don’t let it define you. Having the courage, strength, and faith to move forward but also learning from past mistakes is very important.
Michael Kosene: I don’t accept repeated failures. I find a way to get things done.
What item is on your bucket list of things to accomplish that you are hoping to check off in 2020?
David Kosene: Continue to be aware and appreciative of all the “good things“ in my life. Give back to my community and broaden my worldly view, develop friendships with people and cultures from all over the world.
Mark Kosene: Keeping life simple, exhibiting daily appreciation and gratitude. Striving to become the best father and grandfather and being open to personal growth.
Michael Kosene: A new home is on my 2020 bucket list.