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Meet Megan Mainzer of Bella Luna Restaurant and the Milky Way Lounge in Jamaica Plain

Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Mainzer.

Megan, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started working at Bella Luna at the young age of 12. It is a family business in every sense of the word. My mom Kathie Mainzer started Bella Luna in Nov of 1993 with partners Charlie Rose, Carol Downs, and Pierre Apollon. I had spent my childhood up until then “acting out” the roles of cashier, waitress, and teacher. This was literally my dream come true to work the register and wait for the guests.I immediately loved the restaurant and the diversity of all the staff and customers. The warm community that welcomed us as a new small business in the neighborhood of Hyde Square, JP.

I started as counter help and worked my way up to server, bartender, manager. My mom Kathie was our fearless leader running the restaurant for those first 15 years and I learned so much from her on a daily basis. I finished high school and put myself through college working at Bella Luna. It was always constant in my life. My sense of family, community and central to my sense of self.

Growing up in the vibrant Latin quarter of JP inspired me to create my own major at UMASS Boston in Caribbean Studies. I was fascinated by the history, economics, art, and culture of the immigrants who surrounded me at Bella Luna and in JP. I traveled and learning to speak Spanish. I lived in the Dominican Republic teaching English in a bilingual elementary school.

When I came back to Boston and back to Bella Luna I was inspired to teach small-scale English classes to the employees at Bella Luna.

I am now married and have two young children. I am now part-owner of Bella Luna and continue to run the day to day operations with my partner, Carol Downs. I am so blessed to have a partner like her who supports me and my family and who keeps me smiling as we juggle all the responsibilities of running a small business together.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think to be honest running a small business is a constant flow of ups and downs. There are moments of excitement- such as finding the right person for a position or starting a new menu or having a busy fun night of music that brings a great crowd of people.

And there are the moments of lows- when a team member leaves or someone has to be let go. There are times when the sales are low, cash flow is tight and that can be stressful. But overall the key is the keep plugging away and keep your head up.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Bella Luna Restaurant and the Milky Way Lounge story. Tell us more about the business.
Bella Luna & The Milky Way is a dining and entertainment landmark founded in 1993 in Jamaica Plain, Boston by Kathie Mainzer, Megan Mainzer, Charlie Rose, Carol Downs and Pierre Apollon.

Our mission is to create community through delicious food, fabulous art, and original entertainment; to be a gathering place where everyone feels comfortable and has fun, and to build a better Boston by supporting the work of local non-profit organizations. I think we are most proud of our diverse team and how we consciously try to cultivate a diverse group of customers who can gather for food, drinks, and art in our warm space. We want to be a place where everyone is and feels welcome.

We believe in the democracy of food: that delicious, gourmet cuisine can be offered at neighborhood prices.

We are a family-run business with a collaborative, friendly work culture. The heart of our mission as a small business is to build a better Boston by supporting the work of neighborhood groups and non-profit organizations. Bella Luna donates 1% of its sales to local non-profit organizations every year and has increased resources for community groups by hosting fundraisers and events.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t think that luck has anything to do with things that happen in my life or the business. There are times when bad things happen but I think that is a fact of life and I can only do my best and try and cultivate positivity and gratitude for all the gifts that I have in my life and at Bella Luna.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Kelly Davidson Studio Photography

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