GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bryson and Tanna Dang, owners of the Wedding Cafe, exchanged business vows after getting married. "It was an opportunity that came up to have and run your own business," said Tanna. "I really love weddings, and I'm always excited when I hear someone's engaged. It's every girl's dream." CLICK FOR LARGE
In sickness, health ... and business
Newlyweds Tanna and Bryson Dang take the plunge as owners of the Wedding Cafe
SHORTLY after they made wedding vows as husband and wife, Tanna and Bryson Dang also decided to get into the wedding business.
Their wedding day: Dec. 12, 2004.
The following New Year's Day, they took over the lease for the Wedding Cafe at Manoa Marketplace -- a cafe that also doubles as a one-stop shop for brides.
It was a plunge for both, who had never before run a business. But Tanna, 28, and Bryson, 29, say while there were some challenges in the beginning, they have absolutely no regrets.
"It was an opportunity that came up to have and run your own business," said Tanna Dang. "I really love weddings, and I'm always excited when I hear someone's engaged. It's every girl's dream."
Name: The Wedding Cafe
Address: 2752 Woodlawn Drive, Suite 5-209
Web site: theweddingcafe.net
Her own vivid memory of their wedding day includes walking down the aisle, surrounded by family and friends in a beautifully decorated ballroom with glass windows. With the cafe, she said she gets to share in other brides' experiences.
Tanna, a University of Hawaii at Manoa graduate who worked for "Hawaii Bride & Groom" magazine, felt she knew the wedding business -- both from personal and professional experience.
Bryson, who at the time worked at Bank of Hawaii, always had dreamed one day of getting into the food business and one day running his own lunchwagon cart. When the opportunity came up to buy the cafe, he wanted to go for it, seeing the chance to create his own menu.
The Dangs took over the business from previous owners Karen and Ray Kawaji in late 2004. The Kawajis sold them the business and moved to the mainland.
Since taking over the business, the Dangs have brought in Tanna's sister, Tessa, a culinary student, to run the kitchen. They also have hired three workers.
The business also has evolved, with a new Web site, a 14-week series of Wednesday night workshops and other special events, like "mint: an afternoon tea experience."
This month, they also are launching a new wedding magazine, to be called "white," which will feature profiles of local wedding professionals.
The roles of the husband-and-wife team in the business are pretty clear.
"She wears the wedding hat and I wear the cafe hat," said Bryson Dang, who also works a full-time job during the day at Hickam Air Force Base.
Tanna chats with the brides who walk into the cafe and organizes a series of Wednesday night workshops, which range in topic from makeup and hair to wedding coordination, wedding photography and an evening of cake and wine sampling.
The cafe, which is open six days a week, has a menu offering salads, soups, sandwiches, desserts and brewed teas -- lychee iced tea is one of the most popular.
They have been marketing the cafe as a meeting place for brides, as well as a spot to host bridal showers and tea parties. Grooms, though more rare, also come into the cafe.
"I understand what they're going through," said Bryson, who usually chats with the grooms. "I can give the guy a pastrami sandwich."
As a wedding resource center, the cafe offers a library of magazines, books and brochures, as well as a display wall of wedding vendors -- from photographers to ministers to florists and even harpists.
The wall is like a wraparound billboard for vendors, who pay an annual membership fee to display their ads on the cafe's walls, along with participation in the workshops. Currently, the cafe has more than 80 members.
In a corner, there also are a few retail items, like cards, wedding favors, T-shirts, tank tops and bridesmaids' gifts.
The majority of clientele are brides who are planning their weddings and looking for vendors.
Although there is a lot of potential in the wedding industry for off-shore brides planning "destination weddings," the cafe currently caters to local brides -- about 90 percent.
Many local brides attending college on the mainland also plan their weddings when they return to Hawaii during their breaks.
To better tap into the multimillion-dollar industry, the Dangs organized a focus group to hone in on what Hawaii's brides were looking for while putting together a wedding.
On average, their survey found that couples spend between $25,000 to $30,000 on their weddings. Local weddings also tend to be larger, said Tanna, because of extended families.
Many brides and grooms have become friends, and many will swing by the cafe after their weddings to share photos and stories. Because of the cafe, Tanna and Bryson have been invited to many weddings.
Though most of the clientele are female brides, who make most of the key decisions in a wedding, Bryson also has put significant input into the business for the grooms.
One of his newest ideas was to add a line of T-shirts to the cafe's retail offerings -- a plain blue shirt with the words: "yes dear." So far, it seems to be a big hit.