On the Road to ROADEES01 March 2021 Written by By Cherie Mathews
Published in March 2021 Articles
“We like for people to feel at home when they come in, like part of the family, and aim to be a place where everybody knows your name.”
My route to Roadees began in Hobbs, New Mexico, where I was born and raised. You’ll notice the southwest influence the moment you walk into my cafe. Our whimsical decor is made up of hot air balloons, a colorful collection of cacti, and vintage license plates that line the walls. As an adult, I moved to Texas where I worked at the Frito Lay headquarters for 13 years. I loved working for Frito Lay, and during that time, I had no idea that life was about to take a huge turn. In 2005, my husband’s job provided him with the opportunity to transfer to Shanghai, China. Though the idea of moving overseas did seem daunting at first, we knew it was something that we could not pass up, and it ultimately ignited our family’s love of travel. While living in Shanghai, I helped several friends start businesses of their own. I helped design a hair salon in our neighborhood with a very good friend, and the business is still thriving to this day! I also had the opportunity to help a friend who sold imported foods to expats who were craving a taste of home. There were a lot of other side projects in our 12 years in China; it seems to have all been practice for owning a bustling business myself. The name Roadees actually comes from the love of travel that developed from living overseas. In Shanghai, I designed, manufactured, and sold a line of travel wallets that were called “Roadees.” After moving here, I decided to continue using that name for our new place because it embodies who we are.
When my son graduated high school in Shanghai in 2017, he chose to move to California and attend the University of San Francisco to pursue his love of computer science. With this change, it felt like the right time for me to move back to the United States as well. Feeling the exhilaration of opportunity and new beginnings, I began looking for a business that I could dive into. My intent, as a first-time business owner, was to not only find something that I could build and use to support myself, but to also create an amazing learning opportunity for my daughter, Chandra, who had just graduated from university in Vancouver, Canada. She was searching for her next steps and I was eager to take them with her in our new life back in the States. We moved to Brentwood to be closer to my son, and the hunt for our new endeavor began! I looked at pretty much everything, from tanning salons to resell clothing. For a brief time, I was even considering purchasing a Subway franchise, but then we stumbled upon this small sandwich shop located in a beautiful downtown area. It ticked a lot of boxes and was more appealing to me than owning a chain restaurant establishment.
“I feel grateful to have arrived at this destination and encounter so many amazing people.”
We take pride in being a family-owned business with a mother-daughter team! We are so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in our first year and a half of business. Being a two-person operation means we are able to get to know our customers on a personal level. We actually have a full list of customers who have a “regular,” which is a sandwich that they have perfected to fit their taste. They simply come in and say, “I’d like the usual.” I believe that this is something that makes our store special. Two things that we deemed most important when we began this business were customer service and knowing our customers. Our “regular’s list” gives us so much joy because it’s a list of people who trust us and folks we have come to know well over the last year and a half. We know if someone hates tomatoes, likes their bread toasted, or prefers oat milk in their beverage. These small details and the delightful conversations we get to have with the people who come in give us a familiar, neighborhood market vibe only experienced in the past. It’s an experience very different from walking into a warehouse grocery retailer and grabbing mass-marketed foods. It makes us stand out. We like for people to feel at home when they come in, like part of the family, and aim to be a place where everybody knows your name.
Our tag line is “handcrafted sandwiches and more,” and I feel like we provide exactly that. Not only are our ingredients top-quality and fresh, but each sandwich is 100% customizable to the customer’s liking. We bake our bread in small batches throughout the day, which provides the freshest bread for each sandwich. They are also a good size for the price. We don’t skimp on fixings; you will absolutely get what you paid for and maybe a little more!
Our number one selling sandwich is the Italian Sub. This sandwich comes with mortadella, salami, pastrami, and provolone cheese. We drizzle a garlic sauce that we make in-house on top of the lettuce and it soaks into the bread making it extra delicious. There’s a reason it’s our top seller! When we get first time customers and they ask us for a suggestion, we always recommend the Italian Sub on a sourdough roll because it won’t disappoint!
In the future, we want to get more creative with our menu items. We love our current menu, it has some amazing classics that will always satisfy, but recently we started doing a “sandwich of the month.” This format gives us the opportunity to test new things and experiment. It’s been fun testing out sandwiches we wouldn’t normally have on the menu such as the French Dip, Turkey Cranberry, and Chicken Bacon Ranch. We want to venture to new and unique menu items that make us stand out as a top-of-mind ordering or eating destination!
When the pandemic began, we closed down temporarily in April in order to figure out a game plan. We lost our bread supplier and had to find a new solution to that problem, which was deflating. We knew that things had to change when we came back, we just weren’t sure how. The lockdowns have created awareness for small businesses, and because of this, we’ve been introduced to many interesting foodie products through social media advertising. Our collaborations have made it possible to introduce locally made, unique foods that you cannot get at a chain grocery store. We have three go-to food providers that we are proud to host inside of Roadees.
When we reopened on May 5, 2020, Tiffany Lund from @tlcustomcakes approached us about selling her cupcakes. Our hope for injecting new life into the business and successfully pivoting was rejuvenated! One thing that my store lacked was sweets, and I loved the idea of pairing up with someone local and supporting each other during a time of uncertainty. We began with just cupcakes, but then Tiffany developed a triple chocolate brownie and a lemon bar brownie for selling at Roadees. Both are equally delicious and addictive! Soon after, Beth Neal of Hello Cookie stopped by, introduced herself, and brought over some samples. Adding her dessert delicacies was a no-brainer and I felt fortunate to be able to bring her standout product into my shop. Her cookies are especially soft and chewy. If you haven’t tried her lemondoodle or sprinkle cookies yet, you are missing out. Both of these very talented bakers have helped me hit my customers’ sweet tooth, and provided specialty items that cannot be found elsewhere! My third locally sourced food collaboration is with Brian Brown who owns B-Boy BBQ catering. His daughter, Brittany, gave me his business card one day when she came in to buy a cupcake. I approached him about supplying us with pulled pork because I thought that would be an amazing addition to our menu, adding variety. Our pulled pork sandwich has been a huge success since adding his tender, barbequed meat. These three collaborations are hopefully just the beginning of good things to come for Roadees. In the future, we hope to bring more retail items into the store, products such as local honey, jams, or handmade crafts.
I feel grateful to have arrived at this destination and encounter so many amazing people. Ten years ago, I never would have thought that I’d be where I am today, but you can’t always plan which direction life will take you. Brentwood welcomed me with supportive, open arms. I have been the benefactor of kind and thoughtful advice that has been much appreciated as a first time business owner. The road has been bumpy, but every new venture has a learning curve. Each day adds a little extra flavor to this experience, and whether I’m learning something new about my customers, my daughter, or myself, I relish the journey.
Photos by Casey Quist