It only took 20 minutes in his new space for Tim Grace to be sold on the idea of moving.
The location was just one block north, and on to the main drag of Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. Tim and his wife, Shantel, are the owners of Ramen Bowls, Lawrence’s noodle shop at 125 E. 10th St.
The Graces moved into a building they knew they could fill and were conservative in their offerings, but after years of growing pains, they decided to upgrade from their two-story establishment to a roomy, 3,000-square-foot space at 918 Massachusetts St.
“We didn’t have a huge money pot to pull from or anything like that, so those first two years were ones of true hustle, and grit, a refusal to fail,” Shantel said. “It’s been a very organic growth, we couldn’t have just opened in a bigger space on Mass Street at the time. We started in a smaller space because it was just us.”
In mid-December, Shantel said, the couple hopes to have business at their new location up and running, sporting the same logo and feel of their current establishment.
“I actually loved that building when we first moved here. It’s really beautiful, and I think I was poking at you,” Shantel paused in her story to imitate the motion — “about it, and he was like, ‘We’re not moving.’ And I didn’t want to move either, but we faced such challenges here with a lack of space that we just called Dalton (Paley) and said, ‘Can we just take a look?’ Very off-handedly, but when we went in, I think he even more than me said, ‘We’re moving here.’ ”
Once they saw the kitchen, storage space and walk-in cooler, Tim said, he was sold.
The Graces currently rent a second building for additional storage and their noodle maker, which Tim said makes about 1,000 servings of noodles a day.
“So many of our customers don’t know that we make our own noodles, and we’re one of a handful in America who does that,” Shantel said. “And that’s really exciting that now people can watch that process — and right when they walk in can see, ‘Oh, those are homemade.’ ”
The authentic Japanese noodle maker will be shown at the front of the store and will also allow for Ramen Bowls to offer a third broth.
Ramen Bowls currently serves chicken and vegetarian broths full-time, but Tim said that in the larger space they will also offer a beef broth, which earlier was only available for special occasions, such as Valentine’s Day and Restaurant Week.
“Some of our kitchen crew literally cried when we took them to the new space. We’ve spent three or four years with some of these people and our struggles have been their struggles at the same time, so it’s very much a family celebration,” Shantel said.
Tim added, “It just showed how much they cared too. There’s been summers where it’s been 150 degrees in the kitchen, it feels like, but we were not intending to move — ever. It was the last thing on my mind until we went and looked at the place.”
Located in Harolds, a former whiskey, chicken and doughnut shop, the future Ramen Bowls location is still undergoing changes — Tim and Shantel are repaneling the walls, adding new decor, removing the giant doughnut hanging from the ceiling, and have fitted tabletops with memorabilia from their time in Oahu, Hawaii, where the inspiration for their restaurant began.
“We lived in Hawaii about four years, and that’s really when we fell in love with this type of ramen,” Tim began, and Shantel added, “and when we had our first baby, Leo, we decided we would move back to Kansas where our families are and totally redirect our careers.”
“But we always wanted to do something with each other, so when we decided to come back we always had ideas and had been brainstorming on things we wanted to do,” Tim continued. “And one of the things that we kept coming back to was this. We thought it made perfect sense in Lawrence, Kansas.”
Ramen Bowls also will extend its drink menu, using fresh juices from its sister store, Luckyberry. Shantel said the restaurant will increase its tiki offerings beyond that of the mai tai and offer a collaboration of options also offered at Luckyberry, including cold-press cocktails.