Help Me Open My Dream Restaurant

The Story of Leland Eating and Drinking House

Hello! My name is Randi Lee. I’ve been in the restaurant business for more than 25 years. I’m in the process of opening my first independent project called Leland Eating and Drinking House . In February, after a year-long search for the ideal location, I took over the lease of 755 Dean Street--a longtime watering hole. The original plan was to make some simple renovations (replace seating, refresh interior walls, sand the floors and build new cabinets) and open the doors to the Prospect Heights community sometime in June. My designer, construction crew and plumber were all ready to go, and on February 15 we began. It wasn’t until late February until I started hearing about the spread of the Coronavirus that was sweeping across the globe. By early March, when Italy went into lockdown, I knew it was only a matter of time until I would face a similar situation. The week before our own stay-at-home orders, no one really knew what was going to happen or for how long. No one could have predicted the outcome over the next three months. Our construction site was left unfinished and the only reasonable thing I could think of was to start building out the restaurant on our own since all we had was time on our hands. I had 800 feet of beautiful white oak boards and 1,000 square feet of floor tile waiting to transform our restaurant. I focused on one project at a time. Starting with the kitchen, we laid 1,000 square feet of tile. My fiancée, Jeanette, and good friend, Carlos, quickly became masters of cutting tile and mixing grout. As the pandemic continued to spread, we spent our days thinking about how the world was changing and that normality might never return. We spoke daily about different food delivery systems, sanitation stations, while looking at different parts of the world and how restaurateurs were operating in their own establishments amidst the pandemic. I wrote new menus, business plans, mock operation schedules and started to think about how I could best serve guests safely.  

(Building the bar shelving.)

Two months went by, and slowly I started to cross items off my very lengthy to do list. Tile, check! Grout, check! Refinish the floors, check! Build the banquettes, check! Refinish the bar, check! While the world seemed to stand still, I was slowly building a restaurant with my own hands. When New York City’s phase 1 reopening came on June 8, it allowed for the return of construction. The plumbers were back, workers returned and life started to seem a little less stagnant. Two weeks later, Governor Cuomo announced a return to outdoor dining. As I started to think about how our restaurant would evolve in the new COVID reality in Brooklyn, I realized that I needed to make a change to my existing plan. Pre-COVID, I never dreamed I would be able to have outdoor dining. Then, all around, restaurants were erecting makeshift platforms  on the streets, sidewalks and in parking spaces in an effort to create outdoor dining spaces where none existed previously. People were starting to return to restaurants. Friends started to see each other again. Life started to come back to the city. 

(Tiling the kitchen.)

Having nearly completed the interior construction, I was now inspired to consider the possibilities that exist on the exterior.  For the first time in months, I didn’t just open the front door and focus on the interior to do list. I realized that I needed to generate and tackle an exterior checklist. The windows would need to be replaced to allow fresh air to flow through the dining area. I looked at the sidewalk in desperate need of repair. The security gate would have to be removed and awnings to be installed. But where would we get the money to do this? This was never part of my initial plan to open our dream restaurant, but I now realized that new windows would change the feeling of this corner forever. It would give guests that outdoor dining feel and provide additional safety, by allowing fresh air into the dining room on those amazing summer nights with a cool fresh breeze. The awnings would give our tables the shade needed during sunny days and protect them on rainy days and cleaning up the exterior would help create the inviting entryway I hope to accomplish. 

(Working outside of Leland with my mom, Grace.)

Over the last four months I have put my heart and soul into building Leland on the inside. I now need your help with the exterior. With your contribution, we will be able to open a restaurant that will serve the community for many years to come. 

(Here is a current shot of the exterior of Leland and some of the windows I'd like to replace.)

Use of Donations

I'm seeking $30,000 for the renovation of the exterior of 755 Dean Street and the betterment of the corner of Dean and Underhill in Prospect Heights. 

- Replacing the 16 windows with 12 double hung windows, so they can open up and offer fresh air
- Install three large awnings over all of the windows, to protect guests from the rain or sun
- Paint the exterior of Leland
- Remove the old rolling gate over the front entrance
- Purchase tables and chairs for guests to enjoy for many years to come


As a thank you for your kind contribution, I have put together rewards which can be accessed through different levels of donation.

$1- $50 -
Public thank you on our social media and all of our love and appreciation! (Unless you donate anonymously, or let us know you would prefer us not to.)

$50-$100 - Priority reservation at Leland once we're  open.

$100-$250 - Branded Leland Tote Bag

$250-$500 - Branded Leland Tote Bag and Hat

$500-$1,000 - Invitation for two to our friends and family private pre-opening night.

$1,000 and up - Private cooking class at the restaurant.

You do not have to receive a reward. Please leave us a comment with your donation if you do not want to receive anything.

On behalf of the people of Leland and my friends and family that have helped me along the way, THANK YOU!

(Here's one of three of the massive banquettes I built, near the windows inside.)

More about Leland: 

Leland is named after my Great Uncle, Leland Chin, who helped my family and community settle in Oregon from China. Our family used to gather for food and drink as a way to bring the community together. At Leland we hope to do just that, and offer a place where you are always welcome. We will bake you fresh bread daily, feed you with delicious food from local farms and serve up kind and honest hospitality that supports the community. We promise to curate good times, through our music, design, food and beverage. The space has great bones and I can’t wait to show you what I have built! But I need your help to make the exterior match the interior. With new windows, awnings and facade (painting and outdoor dining tables), we hope to  enhance the community by having Leland Eating and Drinking House as your new corner spot.

(A photo of my Great Uncle Leland.)

(Recipe testing in the kitchen!)

The Food

I have been collecting ideas and recipes for more than 25 years and I can’t wait to share them with you sitting next to our new windows. The cuisine that Leland serves starts with the ingredients. Our commitment to finding local farms is at the base of our culinary mission. Leland will work with small producers farming the land organically and practicing sustainability, with good ingredients comes delicious food. Leland isn’t trying to mask the flavors, but highlight the food by keeping it simple, clean and bold. Our culinary team focuses on the seasons to guide the menu along with developing flavors with our house made fermentations. The base of our fermentation program is the sourdough that we make daily. Our sourdough will be a practice of feeding the starter to create breads that continue to live, grow and develop layers of flavor. We are also using lacto fermentation to preserve the seasons along with dry-aging meats and fish to add additional flavors to our food. The pantry will play a big part of our culinary team’s success. While we strive to make all of our food as fresh and clean as possible, our to-go and pick-up program starts with the pantry items that we prep, preserve and cook with daily. Leland will offer family dinners to share with your family, prepared and ready to cook in the confines of your own home.

(Focaccia that will be served everyday.)

Coming Fall 2020 - Leland Eating and Drinking House. We can't wait to feed you! Thank you for your support!

(Sanding the original bar.)

(The front room banquettes I built and a shot of the windows from  the inside.)

Fundraising team (2)

Randall Lee 
Raised $3,835 from 25 donations
Brooklyn, NY
Sara Baysinger 
Team member
Raised $420 from 5 donations

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