Chandi family to open third downtown Santa Rosa restaurant
While the Chandi family’s rise to prominence in the Santa Rosa community may look meteoric from the outside, it has in fact been a 20 year-long journey.
It is a classic tale of a family migrating to the U.S., working hard, sticking together and building a successful business.
The Chandis currently own five Mountain Mike’s Pizza outlets around Sonoma County, and three restaurants within blocks of each other in downtown Santa Rosa.
“Doing whatever it takes, together as a family, has done it for us. We keep ourselves busy. We don’t understand (the concept of) vacations,” said Sonu Chandi, president and CEO of Chandi Restaurant Group, which includes his brothers Joti and Sunny and his wife, Ren.
Chandi is a soft-spoken, focused, 36-year old, the eldest of four children. He has many stories - but not much time to tell them - of the family’s journey into the restaurant business that began 20 years ago, when they moved from India to the U.S. to find a better way of life. He wasn’t quite 16 years old and had never before traveled outside of the state of Punjab.
In the beginning, learning English was just one of the hurdles they faced.
Chandi’s father, who ran a dispensary in Punjab, acquired a job in an Indian Restaurant in Walnut Creek. He started as a dishwasher and worked his way up to manager. Chandi worked in the restaurant as well, helping out with whatever needed to be done.
“They were a very tough couple of years. There were a lot of challenges,” said Chandi, a 2015 winner of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 award honoring outstanding young professionals.
“We learned on the go, at school and at work to communicate basic things.”
From humble beginnings in the U.S., the Chandi brothers have all attended Sonoma State University. Their sister, Parminder, is a nurse.
Chandi also attended San Francisco State University where he studied corporate finances and services. While going to school full time, he also held a full time job and two part time jobs. He calls it “keeping yourself busy.”
“There is not a day in my life when I get up and say ‘I don’t feel like going to work today,’” Chandi said. “We pay a lot of attention to details so we can continue to get better and grow and be a great part of our community. America has given us so much, it’s really important to go the farthest we can.”
The Chandis got their work ethic from their father and grandfather. Their father pushed them to continue their education because he didn’t have opportunity to go to college.
“I have been first in my family to go to college and finish college and my wife and brothers have gone to college as well. My family culture is that ‘work hard in life and things will fall in place’ which has worked for us. But the fact that I have had an education has helped me grow in bigger leaps. Just hard work doesn’t cut it these days,” he said.
Chandi knew he wanted to go into business, but not necessarily the restaurant business. He had plans for himself to become a banker, when another opportunity presented itself.