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Nick's Picks: Mark Teng's restaurant empire grows

The notoriously fickle restaurant industry is a dangerous field to enter. Driving through Rochester’s downtown neighborhoods, one is just as likely to find a for lease sign in a storefront window as one is a grand opening sign. When one restaurant opens, another shuts down. It’s the nature of the business. Owners who make a profit and sustain any longevity can be considered successes. For the savviest entrepreneurs in the industry though, one profitable restaurant is just the tip of the iceberg.

A handful of local restaurateurs have built their own empires of sorts, with their hands in several culinary endeavors. The Swan family, who, between three siblings and their mother, own Roux, Ox and Stone, Swan Dive, Dorado, and the Daily Refresher, come to mind. Chuck Cerankosky who is involved with Good Luck, Radio Social, Cure, and Bar Bantam; as well as the Miles family who oversee Char, Bitter Honey, the Revelry, Branca Midtown, and Branca Basin, are also preeminent figures. With the recent opening of Create A Pizza at 766 Monroe Avenue, businessman Mark Teng is now a part of this conversation as well.

Teng’s foray into the restaurant businesses started humbly. In the late 1990s, at the age of sixteen, Teng immigrated alone from the Fujian province of China to New York City. There, Teng took up work as a busboy before moving to Rochester to be closer to friends in 2001. During 2004, after starting a takeout Chinese restaurant on South Clinton, which he has since sold, Teng opened Plum House, a Japanese restaurant on Monroe Avenue known for its sushi. In 2012, Teng opened Furoshiki on Park Avenue, which was ahead of the curve as one of Rochester’s first ramen-focused restaurants. At the end of 2015, Teng opened Revolution Karaoke, which specializes in Sichuan-style cuisine.

With his latest project, Teng departs from Asian fare to take advantage of the huge demand for delivery and takeout pizza. At Create A Pizza, which prioritizes fresh ingredients and quality dough, customers can customize their pizza with myriad sauces, cheeses, toppings, and proteins. Diners can also choose from a variety of preset creations like the Mediterranean pizza, made with pesto sauce, feta, tomato, roasted red pepper, olives, broccoli, red onion, and shredded chicken.

Now with four restaurants under his ownership, Teng credits delegation for his success.

“I’m lucky enough to have great partners and managers,” says Teng. “I just want to make sure I’m checking in weekly and know that everyone is doing the right thing.”

While still in Create A Pizza’s first month of operation, Teng is already planning a fifth restaurant, a hand-pulled noodle shop also on Monroe Avenue which will open by the end of 2019.

For one of Rochester’s most successful restaurant owners, slowing down is not an option.

Follow Nick’s Picks on Twitter at @NickAbreu585.

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