It’s another new year, friends. Wow, I can’t believe it. Almost 8 years. We stayed in business!
I remember when Ninong’s was just an idea. We wanted to open a bake shop..didn’t know what to call it, didn’t know where it would be, didn’t know how hard it would be. All we knew was we wanted to open one. After a long journey, one that I won’t bore you with today, we ended up here in Granada Hills. I grew up in this area. I went to elementary school down the street from the shop and went to high school in Mission Hills. I lived in North Hills and then in Northridge. It meant a lot for us to open up in an area that didn’t have a lot of Filipino shops. We wanted to share our food. Not just Filipino food, but our family’s food with other people.
That was then. We were trying to figure out who we were and what we wanted to offer. We struggled to find our identity and what would set us apart from all the other places? Food from scratch wasn’t enough. We didn’t know how much longer we would survive. Then, the idea of the ube pancakes came. These weren’t just your typical pancakes, and to us it wasn’t just about the pancakes. It was about what would go with it. Yes, the pancakes needed to be good. But all the things that go with it had to be just as good.
My Tita makes a mean sans rival. If you’ve never had sans rival, I will definitely have to write a post about that later. But let’s just say the butter…oh man the butter. It’s an art form all in its own. It’s not just butter whipped in a mixer. She has her secret recipe that changes the GAME. I’m telling you. Top that on a stack of ube pancake – GOLDEN.
Then there’s the coconut syrup. I remember when we first started offering it, we would put the bottles of coconut syrup out in the retail area. You don’t know how many times my mom would need to buy new bottles because people would take the bottles of syrup. I’m not lying! They would take them. We couldn’t believe it!
The first day we offered the ube pancakes, I was cooking each individual pancake on 1 pan on our 2 burner stove. One at a freakin’ time. I couldn’t keep up, I was so overwhelmed. I didn’t think that many people would actually be interested in ube pancakes. We offered it that one time then it grew to once a month, then every other weekend, then every weekend, and finally every day. After all that time we finally found something that we could be known for, and it helped us create our identity. In 2012 we rebranded with a look that fit closer to our target market, our desire to reach a larger audience, but still be welcoming and have personality at the same time. We have really tried to evolve and grow based on the constructive advice we have gotten from our customers.
Looking back at our journey it makes me so proud and humbled at the same time. We have come a long long way from the first days we opened. We have struggled hard to arrive at this point, and I know there are still many challenges we will continue to face as we continue to grow. But I can’t help but smile from the gratefulness I feel to be able to do something like this every day.
If you’re out there reading this and are wanting to open your own business of any kind let me tell you – DO IT. If you’re passionate about it, you might as well try. But be prepared for the hard work and ups and downs ahead. Despite all that, when I go home I feel rewarded to share my culture, upbringing, and family with others. If there’s a will, there’s a way.