If you’re a Henderson Avenue regular, you’ve witnessed quite a bit of change at a certain spot this year. Formerly Vickery Park, the space was originally transformed into Stellar back in May. But before you could say “really tough Observer article that used the words ‘identity crisis’ and ‘Lysol’”, the doors were shut.
Just a month and a half later, there was action at the little bungalow again. One day, the exterior was transformed with pitch black paint. The next, a smattering of bold banana leaf wallpaper was clearly visible through the windows. But the most notable change of all came when the doors officially opened in September: there were people inside.
The man behind the makeover is SMU undergrad Francois Reihani. The 22-year-old California native first tried his hand at the restaurant business earlier this year with West Village’s Pōk the Raw Bar, whose popularity may be responsible for the Hawaiian fish salad trend in Dallas.
Shortly after opening, Reihani had the chance to sell his shares in Pōk, and found his next opportunity when his landlord introduced him to Stellar. “I saw the potential in the location and a fun opportunity to transform something,” Reihani says.
We caught up with Reihani to learn more about his success as a young restauranteur, and what it means to design a concept for the social media savvy set.
What elements of Stellar did you design with social media in mind?
FR: In coming up with the concept, it was all what people would want to take pictures of. The first inspiration I thought of was the Beverly Hills Hotel — I knew I wanted that banana leaf wallpaper, the pink room, and the black-and-white mural wall. I was marketing to social media, but also to girls. If you can get the girls, guys will follow.
Checked out the latest Instagram-worthy craft cocktail bar in Dallas last night. Though retro-inspired, the whole place is meticulously designed with millenials in mind. Oh, and the drinks were good too! 👌🏻 . . . . . #darlingescapes#sheisnotlost#sharetravelpics#welltraveled#vscotravel#girlswhotravel#traveldeeper#tasteintravel#finditliveit#wearetravelgirls#sidewalkerdaily#worldcaptures#beautifuldestinations#dametraveler#doyoutravel#abmtravelbug#travellife#travelandleisure#destinationhunting#theprettycities#dallas#hendersonave#craftcocktails#bar#barstellar
FR: We have a photo booth, a neon sign that says “It’s Not Love I’m Just Drunk,” and the cocktails are also key — lots of cotton candy, pop rocks, and dry ice.
How will you keep people snapping?
FR: We’re going to commission a local artist to update the picture wall in the back quarterly. Every four or so months we’ll change up things like the cocktail napkins.
What did you learn from opening Pōk?
FR: If I hadn’t done Pōk, I wouldn’t have been able to reopen Stellar in a month in a half. Putting a restaurant into a popular location without any experience was half luck and half hard work, but we’re millennials and we know what millennials want. We made sure the service was good, found a chef that made sure the product was good — at the end of the day that’s all anybody wants.
Has SMU been encouraging?
FR: SMU and my entrepreneurship professor Simon Mak have been very supportive. The school has produced a lot of incredible entrepreneurs.