Union’s partners forge friendship first
By JD Latorre What do you get when you put a NYU Stern School of Business grad and entrepreneur with success in multiple industries, together with a Canadian-born college scholarship golfer turned Ernst & Young associate, and leave them simmering for 10 years? You get two best friends, business partners, and recently-turned restaurateurs and co-founders behind Union, Atlantic Ave’s hottest new Asian Fusion Restaurant. Shaking up the Delray dining scene, Union has provided locals and snow birds alike with an alternative local venue for great and affordable cuisine in a hip atmosphere – all while running the place with the savvy of lifetime restaurateurs. Stephen Chin and Scott Kennedy met in 2003 at Coral Ridge Country Club where they were introduced by the club’s golf director. As many great friendships begin, Chin and Kennedy developed theirs over hours of playing golf. “We played golf together every day,” says Kennedy. Ten years later, they simply refer to one another as “best friends and business partners.” “There’s a lot to be said for friendship. I hope people are blessed with the same friendship that I have had in Steve,” Kennedy says. The Union co-founders have worked together on a number of different projects. Their first foray into the restaurant industry began in 2006 with the process of opening a restaurant in Southern California. Just before the real estate market bubble burst, Chin announced that he did not have a good feeling about the venture. Some may call it luck, but most would attribute it to Chin’s innate business know-how. Kennedy never waivered on Chin’s intuition and so they walked away from this restaurant opportunity in the nick of time. As Kennedy explains, “Golf has given me the opportunity to get to know some of the most successful self-made business people around the world. I can tell you that there is something unique about them; they just see the world differently. There is nothing that indicates that the real estate market was going to fall out, but Steve somehow anticipated it.” In the summer of 2009, their business savvy was put to the test when they met world renowned putting instructor Marius Filmalter. Using their innovation and entrepreneurial drive, they put together an instructional golf DVD called Automatic Putting which, by late 2011, was considered one of the best-selling instructional putting DVDs of all time. In 2011, Kennedy and Chin wanted to fulfill their desire of opening a restaurant and decided to go full steam ahead with their plans. As they took in the ambience of the Ave., they saw the positioning of Caliente Kitchen and Tryst and commented that these restaurants had what they viewed as the key location on the Ave. The very next day, they became aware of an opportunity to purchase Caliente Kitchen. As they walked through the restaurant for the very first time, they had a “feeling” that this was the place for their dining concept and bought it that very day. Kennedy and Chin’s mantra with the development of Union has always been “things happen the way that they are supposed to.” Union’s vision is to provide high quality food, a great ambience and a reasonably priced meal – and they have achieved just that. As Chin explained, “We didn’t really know what we had until mid-February when Beth Landman, writer for New York Magazine and Vanity Fair, stopped in for dinner and eventually wrote that Union was the best deal in South Florida. Although Kennedy and Chin had provided suggestions and some guidance regarding the direction of the menu, it was the imagination and creativity of Union Executive Chef Rich Achaia who made it possible to bring Union’s standout Asian fusion concept to life.
“Things happen the way that they are supposed to.”
“We are happy to say that we have been successful in achieving our goals so far,” says Kennedy. “We have a very exciting summer program we plan to roll out in the coming months.” Kennedy also credits Butch Johnson, owner of 32 East and Tryst: “Butch has been a great neighbor and friend, whether it was providing some local insight or just borrowing a ladder, we are fortunate to be able to learn from him.” Union is becoming what they anticipated it would be – an alternative choice for a local restaurant. Union provides a trendy, cool looking venue, intended for both locals and visitors alike. It’s certainly comforting to know that Union will always be a welcome spot for the locals and, without a doubt, Asian comfort food at its best.