Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”
Our subject this week is Tulip Noir, a north-side breakfast and lunch cafe opened in late 2008 by novice restaurateur Dina
M. Romay-Sipe. Frustrated and unhappy in her career as an interior designer, Romay-Sipe, 48, took a three-month break to reevaluate
her goals and began hatching her plan for the eatery.
"I started driving around and looking for spaces," she said. "I had put a menu together. I was baking. I was
making all kinds of things, dropping them off to my neighbors."
Romay-Sipe knew what she was getting herself into. She grew up in a restaurant family; her mother was a chef and her father
ran the front of the house for a steak-and-seafod restaurant in Toledo, Ohio. Her love of cooking stems from her childhood
years helping her mother in the kitchen. But the restaurant industry also left an indelible stain on her youth.
"It's a tough life," she said. "It's extremely tough on family. It broke up our family. My mother
would work all the time. … I don't remember life with my father. He never had time."
Determined to keep her current home life healthy—and not just via the natural and organic offerings that dominate her
menu—Romay-Sipe limited Tulip Noir to breakfast and lunch so she could be available to her family for the rest of the
day. (She and her husband, architect Jeff S. Sipe, have three children: twin boys, 19; and a 15-year-old daughter.)
Although she grew up with parents in the industry, she had a lot to learn about the restaurant business as she developed
Tulip Noir and opened its doors. In the video below, Romay-Sipe details the intensive research she did in
advance of opening; what she learned from mentors; and the missteps that she regrets.