After years of helping steer her family’s longtime Thai restaurant, Lorna Bedford is ready to step out of her mom’s shadow with her own venture.
Bedford is preparing to open Native Plate at 1203 E. Main St. downtown, where Citizen operated for nearly 10 years before closing early in the pandemic.
Bedford is the daughter of Sunisa Polishuk, or the “mom” of Mom’s Siam in Carytown and Mom’s Siam 2 in Shockoe Bottom. The family also has a stake in Pik Nik in the Fan and YaYa’s Cookbook in Short Pump.
Bedford’s been working at her mother’s restaurants for about six years, and the plans for Native Plate came together rather quickly over the summer.
“I’d been thinking about (opening my own spot) but nothing really stood out to me. When we saw (the former Citizen) spot we got in there and were able to get it before somebody else did,” Bedford said. “It was kind of rushed and on a whim but I guess you have to take the chances when you see them.”
Bedford leased the roughly 2,000-square-foot space and began bringing Native Plate to life, with the full support of her mother.
“She’s really confident in me so it doesn’t leave me any room to fail,” Bedford said, laughing. “She’s really excited to watch me grow the empire, hopefully.”
The summer was when Bedford said she noticed the restaurant industry bouncing back a bit more from the initial shock of the pandemic.
“Luckily (at Mom’s Siam) we’ve been able to rely on our takeout and carryout business with a few dine-in customers. It has definitely got a lot better,” Bedford said.
Bedford said Native Plate’s lunch and dinner menus will include some Thai and Vietnamese dishes, but will not be limited to those.
“We’re definitely trying to go for like, a global street food scene. It’s a little ambiguous but we’re close to the other (Mom’s Siam) so I want to make sure we’re not taking business from them,” Bedford said, adding that her restaurant will have a full bar and cocktail menu. “We might even have a burger on the menu, who knows.”
She said she’s excited to work on Native Plate’s brunch menu.
“We want to do something a little bit more creative, something like fried rice or something a little different than just chicken and waffles,” Bedford said.
Work is currently underway on the space, with plans for a mid-December opening date.
After skipping college to get into the restaurant industry, Bedford said learning the ropes from her family has her feeling ready to launch Native Plate.
“I definitely had my doubts about it. You know, you question your sanity sometimes when you’re working in customer service and with your family. Combined, that’s a challenging aspect,” she joked. “It’s a lot of pressure to live up to everyone else’s expectations from the family business but I’m confident in myself.”