Designer Yves Saint Laurent once famously declared, “Fashions fade, style is eternal.” We couldn’t agree more. While fashion bends to trends, style reflects the whole person. Oscar Wilde embellished the thought, writing in The Importance of Being Earnest: “In matters of great importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.” If you want to honestly know a person, get a sense of their lifestyle.
Here, we talk with three men, busy with projects, passion, and local businesses. They do what they do, described with straightforward accounts of their days, with style, as told to Toledo City Paper readers.
Co-founder and Co-owner of Balance Pan-Asian Grille
In February 2010, CJ and his business partner Prakash “PK” Karamchandani opened their first Balance Grille restaurant. Almost nine years later, the duo has four Toledo-area locations of the popular fast-casual, Asian-fusion restaurant, and they’re on the heels of opening their first restaurant in Cleveland.
Like the business, CJ is fast-paced, bold, and uncommon. He’s all over the place, in a good way, and passion and persistence direct his every move.
“We’re very picky and selective about who we promote and hire. I spend the majority of my day in the restaurants, they’re like my first home, so I make damn sure I enjoy the people around me. We’re creating something cool and meaningful, not just offering a way to earn money but a possible career. I love these people as people in general, which makes it all so much more rewarding and fun. We’ve always envisioned the mentorship aspect, but we didn’t expect it to grow this much.”
To Do List—All Day, Every Day
7am: Wake up, grab my phone, and check our Slack messaging system, which we use morning to night to keep in touch with the company’s over 150 employees. I monitor Slack and touch base with team leaders and communication leaders regarding any day to day obstacles and logistics. Then I check out Balance’s social media, the local news and food industry news, such as fast casual.com and The New York Times so I can figure out the next big thing in the fast casual food industry. I love finding out as much as I can about the food industry and other companies and see who is excelling and why. Then, I get up to get ready, shower, and head out to whichever store I feel like needs more attention for that week.
8:30am: Hop in the car, stop at Maddie & Bella downtown to pick up coffee—the Iced Downtown Latte is my favorite—and grab a bottle of water before heading to a restaurant.
9am: Get to one of our restaurants, put on my uniform, my chef’s jacket, my non-slip shoes, and work alongside my employees through the lunch rush.
2pm: I’m out of the kitchen and on the way to my office in Maumee to meet with the administrative team and my business partner, PK, who I stay in touch with all day, every day, Monday through Sunday. When I have some free time, I like to do a lot of research for the next new menu items and brainstorm ideas. Managing my inspiration and my budget is fun, but it can be challenging because our food needs to be first and foremost delicious and look great aesthetically, but also fresh, fast, and affordable.
4pm: By this time I’m checking up on my sauce lab inventory and then I’m heading to the gym to workout. It is my way of relieving and stress and it’s my way of escape. I consider the gym as another home away from home and I take working out very seriously.
6pm: I swing by a restaurant to help out during the dinner rush or just see how everything is doing.
9pm: Home, hopefully. At home I place all produce orders online from Sam Okun Produce since each store receives produce six times a week. Communications can continue until 11pm, but I try to stop my day around this time so I can get up in the morning and do it all again tomorrow.
“When someone looks at you, they look at your sneakers. And when you have some really nice kicks on, people notice.”
Toledo’s sneaker collection keeps growing with all-purpose streetwear boutique Sunika’s second location, this one in downtown Sylvania (5689 Main St.). Partnering with his college roommate in Summer 2018, Sunika co-owner Mike Orra carries himself with a breezy-yet-self-assured presence of a retail entrepreneur. He’s conscious of the hype surrounding his products, yet above it. In balancing a young family with managing a fledgling business, Orra wields his knack for marketing as a community-building vehicle.
Rise & Grind
7am: I have my Nespresso and start hitting social media and the websites to see what’s hot, what’s new. I’m on my phone checking Sneakers News and Stock X for new shoes and collabs. What are the styles people here are going to be wearing? I try to wear the products I bring in so I’ll usually rock the latest sneaker we get. After spending some time with my wife and kids, I’m out the door.
9am: I stop into Sunika’s Toledo location (2903 Dorr St.) every day and talk to Joe [Naimy], my partner, so we can catch up in person. The hardest part is staying friends with a partner. We hang out in the mornings and scheme on new products and promo ideas.
10am: When I get to the store in Sylvania I go through my inventory, update my website and make sure everything is pristine. We wanted to bring a lot of companies, brands and styles that you can only find in New York or LA or online so making sure the store reflects that clean and fashionable aesthetic is key. I’m also keeping in touch with fellow companies and stores to get the industry scoop from everyone. It’s a family thing—the sneaker business.
4pm: For lunch, I only eat when I sell something. Usually, I just wait and have J&G’s pizza about every other day.
5pm: My post-lunch play is social media. Everybody’s big on social media in the afternoon and evening so I always try and take pictures and post stories on Instagram (@sunikasneakers). Any new boxes of sneakers that come in that day, I’ll open take pictures of them and post it to social media immediately. I’m also constantly promoting our Sneaker Stash giveaway where we’ll hide a shoebox around town and the first person to bring the box into the store gets a pair of shoes in their size for free.
7pm: Right before I leave, I’ll organize the store and make sure it’s clean. I’ll also go through my emails and make sure all communication is done. I head home and spend as much time as I can with my family.
9pm: I eat my dinner and go to bed.
Black Frog Brewery
Christopher Harris got a craft kit to brew his own beer in 2011. What started as a hobby “quickly consumed me,” he says with a laugh. A passing interest turned into a passion overnight. The more he practiced, the more he researched. The more he researched, the more he wanted to experiment. The more he experimented, the more equipment he needed. Small batches were bottled for friends, and then, within three years, he had a small brewery in his garage, his own label, and major wholesale deals with The Andersons.
A lot of things have changed in the past eight years. Today Harris has a brewery and a taproom, wholesale deals with restaurants and distributors, and an encyclopedia-like knowledge of craft beer. But one factor hasn’t changed—Christopher still does it all by himself. No employees, no help. Black Frog Brewery is exactly how it started, 100% him.
Hop TO IT!
Christopher Harris’ day:
7am: Wake up, get cleaned up, and start getting ready for the day.
7:45am: Leave the house, stop for some coffee at McDonald’s, and head to the brewery.
8am: Get to the brewery and it’s time to start moving. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I start making a new batch of beer, so things are about to move fast.
8:15am: It’s time to start brewing. I typically make a 2.5 barrel batch, which is about 75-80 gallons, and start by getting my equipment together to make wort, which is what a brew is called before it ferments and becomes beer.
8:30am: I fill a pot of water and heat it to the temperature I’ll need to get the sugars off the grain of whatever I’m brewing that day. While that tank is heating, I use my grain mill to grind the grains I’ll need for my brew. Depending on what I’m using, this process can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a half hour.
9am: The water is at my target temperature, so I start transferring it to the mash tun and then, carefully and slowly, stir in the crushed grains.
9:45am: Once it’s all mixed and I have the oatmeal-type texture I’m looking for, I set a 60 minute timer to allow for the sugars to come off the grain. Now, it’s time to clean my equipment and, if I have time, tend to the other projects I have going on in the brewery.
11am: I transfer the mixture from the mash tun to my boil kettle and start bringing my wart up to boil. As it heats up, I start adding whatever hops I need for the style of beer I’m making. This is where things get really hectic—I have 60 minutes to both get the leftover grain out of the mash tun and into containers for a local farmer to pick up to feed to his animals, and set everything back into place. 90 percent of the time, I get it done, but if anything goes wrong it will completely throw me off.
Noon: The boil is done, so I hook up my heat exchanger and start bringing the wart down from 212 degrees to 65 degrees. I have to go slow here, but depending on the day and the temperature outside, it typically takes an hour. While this is happening, I’m cleaning more equipment.
1pm: Finally, time for a break. Every once in a while, I might get 5-10 minutes earlier in the day to quickly eat something, but this is the point in the day where I can relax for about 15-20 minutes, drink some water and juice, and have lunch.
4pm: The transfer is done, the rest of my equipment is clean, and I’ve attended to emails, phone calls, and other business. If it’s Monday or Tuesday, it’s time to head home, make dinner with my wife, watch a little TV, and go to sleep. Any other day, it’s time to open the tap room and start serving what I love to the people who want to try it.
Black Frog Brewery
4:30-10pm | Wednesday-Friday
3-10pm | Saturday
Noon-6pm | Sunday
831 S McCord Rd
419-389-7136 | blackfrogbrewery.com