Comstock's magazine 0519 - May 2019 - Page 28

n TASTE From left: Business partners Abe Cunningham and Sonny Mayugba with Director of Operations Justin Jabali inside Solomon’s Deli in Sacramen- to, which is expected to open this summer. of Bite Club hurt deeply. … Bite Club was right on time, and I fault myself for the mistakes that were made. I’m over it, but I’ll never forget it.” That failure wouldn’t be his last. Requested, launched in 2014, was a pol- ished phone app featuring a dynam- ic pricing concept at restaurants with plenty of financial backing, but it never gained traction. Customers were invited to bid on prices for menu items, the idea being that restaurants would be willing to accept lower prices during slow times, much like hotels do. Building the busi- ness accounted for more than a year of his life, and it wasn’t paying off. It was an innovative idea that consumers found awkward to use. Rather than lick his wounds, Mayug- ba put together a deal in 2016 to merge with Waitr — and the fortified venture soon flourished. Becoming a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ was a milestone worth millions on paper for Mayugba and affirmation for a dreamer and risk-taker who persevered through his share of false starts and missed op- portunities. Looking back, Mayugba 28 | May 2019 says he had a grasp of the opportuni- ties available in the new digital age in business. “What I recognized pretty early on was the democratization of information and the access to build things — the low- ering of the hurdle to build something,” he says. “The real thing that blew my mind that the old-legacy guys didn’t see was the speed at which the tech com- panies were growing — the adoption by consumers was just unbelievable. I think I saw that.” Mayugba is still dreaming up new ideas. Next on his docket is getting Sol- omon’s Deli launched in Sacramento, with an expected opening this summer. The first location opened in Davis last May. “Like so many of us in the restau- rant business, Sonny has always been one of those guys who wants to make Sacramento a better place,” says Andrea Lepore, who cofounded Hot Italian piz- zeria in Sacramento a decade ago and is a partner in Solomon’s. “Elevating peo- ple’s expectations in Sacramento is one of the reasons I reached out to Sonny with Solomon’s.” Due to open in September 2020 at the Market + Makers is another unusual offering called Smash Table Tennis Bar — Ping-Pong, cocktails and a 360-de- gree bar. It will be one of the many offer- ings in this eclectic space. “Sonny has always been the same person,” says wife Lynn Mayugba, who met her husband in 1994. “I think he’s just become more refined in terms of business. He’s always been extremely exuberant. I think he’s the happiest per- son I have ever met in my life. Every day is like the best day of his life.” n Blair Anthony Robertson is a freelance writer who previously worked at The Sacramento Bee in multiple roles over 18 years, including feature writer, restaurant critic and craft beer columnist. He also worked at the Detroit Free Press and at the Charlotte Observer. These days, he is a dog lover, fitness enthusiast, avid cook and devoted vegan.