Rim is also an owner of the original Raw Sushi and Sake Lounge at 13th and Sansom Streets, Raw Cafe at Boyd's on Chestnut Street, and the Corner, a comfort-food emporium at 13th and Chancellor Streets. He is also a partner in several restaurant/package store projects that are in the works with Foodery.
His first restaurant, Raw, opened in 2005 and became noticeable for barely being noticeable. One of the city's sexiest sushi spots seems like a speakeasy on a shadowy backstreet.
"I wanted something dark you had to seek out, know by word of mouth," says Rim, who never hired a publicist and did little advertising. "People seek out quality."
It was only the beginning for the young entrepreneur who made his business bones selling beepers and pagers in the '90s.
Binh Diep, Rim's friend since high school and partner in the beeper biz and Raw, says Rim sees Stephen Starr as a role model: "Tony sees Stephen Starr's success and wants to create his own path. Tony always gets me to follow the bigger dream," says Diep, 36. "My role is to keep him grounded."
Rim, who was born in Korea, is a product of a stern work ethic. His father bought a deli 30 years ago at 17th and Jefferson Streets that he runs to this day. "I learned dedication to one's job from my father," says Rim. "When I mention retirement, he believes that he must be there to feed that neighborhood 24/7."
Rim majored in finance at Drexel University, worked at a mutual fund company, and became a gofer rather than the investment banker he thought he'd become. Changing careers, he took advantage of the beeper and pager boom in the '90s, selling and leasing equipment and services through Pagealert.
"I did OK but wanted more," Rim says, laughing. An outgoing guy with an eye for design and a taste for good food, Rim fell in love with the burgeoning area that residents call Midtown Village and the Stetson Hat Factory that stretched from Chestnut to Sansom off 13th Street. The property had been abandoned for 60 years until real estate developer Tony Goldman bought it and Rim turned it into Raw.
As a hands-on owner at Raw, Rim got to know Bruno Pouget, the former owner of Caribou Cafe, who proposed a partnership of five principals for Apothecary, a designer cocktail lounge that opened in 2008.
Rim, who was originally a silent partner, bought out Pouget with several associates. In 2010, with partner Drew Milstein, he turned the space into a hot spot, the Corner, complete with roof deck and chef John Taus' comfort food. Rim believes he has a knack for finding the right concept for a space: "I'm lucky that way."
All the while, Rim was working with Jack Lee at the Foodery. Though they're not related, Rim calls Lee his "brother" and worked with the Foodery co-owner as operator of its location at Second and Poplar Streets. They are planning other locations, one at 17th and Sansom Streets with fixed-price dinners and beer pairings they hope to open in the fall. Another at 22d and South Streets and a super-Foodery of more than 9,000 square feet at Ridge Avenue are in the offing.
Then there's the Piazza.
"The most controversial restaurant space in town," says Rim, with a grin.
In March 2011, after Olunloyo was locked out of Speck, Blatstein showed Rim the space. "I called Shola but got no response," claims Rim. Eventually, he and Blatstein reached a handshake rental agreement.
Blatstein believes that Raw's brand of "casual and cutting-edge" food is unique to the area. Executive chef Sam Yoon's menu of inexpensive skewers is being offered along with the high-grade sushi.
Rim thinks of the Piazza at Schmidts as a mystery, a code that has yet to be cracked by restaurant operators. But he is hungry and willing to put the work into figuring it out.
"Most of the high-end equipment they bought for Shola is gone," he says. But what matters, he says, is not the equipment, but the person behind it.
"I'm doing things my way in this space," he says. "That's essential."