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Meet Lauren and Peter Lemos of Wax Paper in Elysian Valley a.k.a. Frogtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauren and Peter Lemos.

Lauren and Peter, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
We met back in 2012 while working in a restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles. Peter managed the kitchen while Lauren served and tended bar. We soon started dating and eventually were married. Through our love for each other, food, and hospitality, combined with a collective 25 plus years of experience, we decided to pursue the dream of having our own place. It was not an easy road. We funded the shop with every dime that we had to our name, a small loan from the bank, zero investors, and we even permitted the space on our own. We were met with many challenges and life-lessons, but with the love and support of family, friends, colleagues, and the community, we finally opened our doors to the public on December 2nd, 2015. Today, we are a little over two years open! We have gained an incredible staff of three as well as an enormous family of customers and friends. We see new faces at the shop every day, and it is all very exciting. We have proudly accomplished and upheld our mission statement of serving our community food that is made with love, in a space that is special to us and feels like home.

Has it been a smooth road?
It was an incredibly challenging road. Permitting and funding our restaurant was by far and away the most challenging obstacle, as well as the hardest experience of our lives.  To this day, we work around the clock putting our blood, sweat, and tears into Wax Paper. The hardest struggle has been the absence of a life/work balance. We understand this is a struggle we will have as long as we own and operate our own businesses, but it is a labor of love and passion. That being said, we are dedicated to our family and friends, and we strive to always allow time for ourselves, even if it means we are still working in some way!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Wax Paper story. Tell us more about the business.
We operate out of a 226 sq.ft. space with 3-5 employees at any given time. We make every item fresh to order and we often sell out, as our bread is delivered fresh every day. When it is gone, we sell out! Being in such a small space, combined with our commitment to waste as little as possible (food waste is incredibly high in restaurants), there is only so much we can accomplish in-house and prepare. This in turn, means you are getting something special. It is an open kitchen, free of ovens, freezers, grills and toasters.

We try to source what we can locally.  A lot of our vendors are local small businesses. We do all of our own pickling, with the exception of our cornichons which are served on our Audie Cornish sandwich. We take Kruegermann cornichons and turn them into a vinaigrette. The Kruegermann’s are an incredible family owned and operated a business in Frogtown. They have been around for over 50 years and aside from being our friends, they are a huge inspiration to us. The shop is chock full of locally sourced items such as our bread by Bub & Grandma’s as well as Etxea bakeries, our chips which are made by father and son-run Rusty’s Chips, our granola bars by Sarah Lange’s Bearclaw Kitchen, and our special Wax Paper candy bar by Jashmine Corpuz’s Sugar Pop 55. Even more special, Peter used to work at Craft with Sarah and Jashmine! Our countertops were made up the street by Ad and his team at Treeline Woodworks and our tee shirts and tote bags are printed up the street as well by Steven Carlson and his amazing crew at Moment Printing. The list goes continues to grow over here.

Each item on our menu is prepared and inspected with mindfulness, love, and care. On any given day, customers are willing to wait five minutes to an hour for a sandwich, depending of course on how many folks are in line or in-house. We are always upfront with an estimate of how long an order will take, giving the diner the option to stay for our experience or respectfully try us another time. Communication with our customers means everything to us. We really treat every customer (original or new) like family. I would wager 80% of our customers have been with us since day 1, and the other 20% are first-timers.

We love and live by a quote by Charles Mingus, an American jazz pianist which says: ‘Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.’

We are best known for our Ira Glass sandwich. Our customers have really taken to this particular sandwich. It contains avocado, a generous nest of alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, pickled and raw red onions, shredded Tillamook cheddar and our twist on garlic aioli. It is served on Bub & Grandma’s seeded sourdough wheat which is baked fresh daily and also made with love and care. It is a simple and classic sandwich that offers a complexity that you just can’t put your finger on!

Above anything, we are most proud of our incredible core team, Ben Cavar, Mikey Mendoza, and Melissa Kane. There are no words to describe how hard they work and how dedicated they are to Wax Paper. We are also so proud of building a community shop that people love to patronize.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
We are seeing a strong increase in less-is-more these days. Unless a person has done time working in a restaurant, they could never understand the stress of the job. Day to day operations, overhead, and serving people food for their hard earned money is a great challenge. Many restaurants open with big money, equipment, and staff, and if the customers aren’t lining up to try it, then they are left with a big space to fill. We think that over the next 5-10 years, restauranteurs will get more creative with underground micro-restaurant concepts (seats 5-10ppl, selective hours, you have to seek it out). We feel there will be less pretension when it comes to food, as the dining customer’s knowledge and appreciation of food are growing exponentially every day. Young people will swear by restaurants the same way they’d swear by their favorite band or a movie that just came out. Fast-casual (not fast food), will be a concept that we’ll start seeing more. While we love social media and recognize the power of it, we will hopefully start seeing less reliance on social media, but more hard on work and talent to get a restaurant’s message out.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 2902 Knox Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90039
  • Website: waxpaperco.com
  • Email: lauren@waxpaperco.com
  • Instagram: @waxpaperco; @linguafrancaco
  • Twitter: @waxpaperco
  • Other: www.linguafrancaco.com

Image Credit:
Credit Wax Paper, Peter & Lauren, Marielle V Chua @seekandfeel

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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