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Meet Christian Graham and Steffany Paz of SMACK’N Guamanian Grill

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christian Graham and Steffany Paz.

Christian and Steffany, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My late-grandmother Rosa Baza Sudo Mesa was a small business owner herself back on the island of Guam, where she raised cows to sell milk and beef to the Artero Store as well as baked goods later on from her home bakery. She would come out from Guam nearly every summer.

In my younger days and I remember spending most of our days in the kitchen cooking, playing cards, and massaging her after she got sore. She was an inspiration to many because her and my late-grandfather Eduardo Camacho Mesa had huge dreams to migrate the entire family of eleven, my mother and her siblings to California, Being poor, no one believed they could make a decent living here. But my grandma and grandfather were believers and leaders. They were visionaries, planners, and go-getters. They let their success speak in silence and made a way for all of my mother’s siblings to have an abundance of opportunities that California could offer.

I wanted to honor them by doing something so grand that they too, would be proud of the impact I wish to make for our community, our people, and our culture. I want everyone to know, “money is a metaphor for opportunity,” in every chance you have to earn money, you have any opportunity to pour back into your community. This is how SMACK’N Guamanian Grill began. Sudo Mesa Authentic Chamorro Kitchen. Always Authentic. Food That SMACKS. From Yona to San Diego. Yona Rulz!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Just graduating from San Diego State University in 2018 to having a newborn daughter, Aaliyah-Jade with my fiancée, Steffany, later that year and opening our first restaurant by June 2019, it has been as hectic of a journey as you could imagine. There were plenty of times where we worked 16-20 hour days trying to get things together for the restaurant, extremely fatigued with our newborn as well, we felt like actual zombies. But one great friend of mine and small business owner, Annie Lee of Taegukgi Korean BBQ House told me, “you only get as much out of it as you put into it, no one will ever see the nights you stay there until 3 AM-4 AM in the morning and be there just a couple hours later but it’s what you’re going to have to do at the beginning, trust me!” It is extremely difficult but extremely rewarding.

SMACK’N Guamanian Grill – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are most proud of serving and providing opportunities for one another at SMACK’N. We wish to establish genuine relationships with every patron that passes through SMACK’N and hope that when they leave SMACK’N that each guest feels like an extension to the Sudo-Mesa clan. We set ourselves apart by keeping everything always authentic, From food to culture to atmosphere, everyone and everything that SMACK’N interacts with is, authentic.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I think we can both agree that we needed more due diligence with our planning. We went from concept to planning to execution in under six months. According to many other restaurant owners, normally, the entire process from start to finish takes at least a year so it did feel rushed. Also, always have another stream of income during the buildout of your restaurant because you never know how it will go from day 1 to day 365.

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