By JOHN T. WARD
The runway to Runa turned out to be long and bumpy, but Red Bank’s first Peruvian restaurant is finally about to open.
Really, definitely this time, says owner Marita Lynn.
The Monmouth Street eatery, which has been “coming soon” for two years, is set to soft-open by August 30, Lynn told redbankgreen Thursday, shortly after clearing one of her final inspections by the borough.
What took so long?
“I had the wrong perception of what it takes to open a restaurant,” Lynn said, standing in the brightly painted, 44-seat BYOB-er. She calls the interim “a great learning experience and a personal journey.”
It all began in July 2012, when Lynn rented the space next door to Monmouth Meats in the former longtime home of the Eurasian Eatery, which had closed just two months earlier. The Peruvian native, now living in Aberdeen, predicted she’d have Runa open in a month.
Um, no. Permits she’d neglected to file for at borough hall – next door to her restaurant – prompted the town to shut down construction. That triggered a crisis of confidence. As chef and caterer, Lynn had no doubts about her kitchen skills, but she suddenly felt in over her head businesswise.
“I guess it was all about believing in myself,” she said in the nearly-finished dining room, where she was joined by her nine-year-old daughter, Alyssa, and 12-year-old son, Matt. “I knew I could do it, but all those things, those doubts, came into my head.”
Over time, funds that she and her husband, Bob Lynn, had budgeted for the restaurant dwindled, and then vanished. A Kickstarter campaign failed. She “hit bottom,” Lynn said.
Then, things just starting breaking in her favor, said Lynn which, as a “spiritual person,” she doesn’t think was a coincidence. Backed by a business coach and, perhaps, some divine hand, she “begged” landlord Paul Noglows not to throw her out of the space. He agreed to give her more time.
“I was about to lose it all,” said Lynn, adding that Noglows “has a great heart. He said yes, and I made it happen.”
Almost immediately, Lynn said, bigger catering jobs starting coming in, helping her replenish her funds. Firm plans for Runa started coming together again, she said.
As of Thursday, she needed just one last inspection, for plumbing, she said.
The restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, said Lynn. The staff of the Count Basie Theatre directly across the street has encouraged her to stay open past her normal closing time of 10 p.m. on big show nights, and she hopes to do so. “They love my food,” she said.
Look for quinoa- and potato-based dishes on the menu, as well as all-vegetarian choices, with many of the ingredients locally sourced. Appetizers will be priced in the $10 range, and entrees from $15 to $25.
In addition, the Runa calendar will feature “Give Back Mondays,” when Lynn plans to help feed the indigent and host networking events and business seminars, run by mentors and coaches, and especially for women.
“Whatever happened in the past, it was worth it,” Lynn said of her ordeal.