Map & Directions
Erick Caceres has been consumed with the process of creation and with molding an idea into reality, for as long as he can remember. As a child, the Dominican Republic-native who moved to the U.S. when he was seven, dreamed of being an architect, possibly inspired by his draftsman father, whose architectural drawings fascinated him. “I loved his big table and the fact the lines he was drawing on it would become a building.”
However his initial ambition faded as first sports and then New York City nightlife captured his imagination. “For approximately six years I was part of a group of self-styled club kids. We knew all the hot spots downtown.” For Caceres it wasn’t just the scene itself that captivated him, it was the creation of the vibe and the events the defined the scene. Consequently he embarked on his first entrepreneurial venture, club promoting.
He also got involved in longer- term career possibilities. Putting his BA in Business Administration marketing from Hunter College to good use, Caceres accumulated more than 10 years of sales and marketing experience with such companies as Benetton, Cote De France and Charivari.
In 2002, he signed on as executive vice president of V2 Media, Inc., a media buying company specializing in OOH advertising, product placement and event planning. One of his first initiatives was the creation of a sales and marketing consulting service division for the company, which worked with high profile brands like Johnnie Walker, Hennessey, Moet & Chandon, Lexus and the Latin Grammys. Caceres’s new division increased V2’s billings by 22 percent during his two years there.
He moved on to found Mas Media Group Inc. in 2004 as a full-service marketing and media communications company to serve as a bridge between major national advertisers and Hispanic and urban communities nationwide. Its success gave him the wherewithal to further pursue what had become a passion for dining out and to consider investing in a wine bar, when approached to do so by two friends.
“After considering the proposal, I decided to present to them a concept I had already been developing. They loved the idea and decided towards what later became the first Mamajuana Café concept, a Spanish/Taino fusion cuisine restaurant.”
Caceres embraced the project, working with architects and builders to develop the look, the feel, the ambiance he envisioned, while orchestrating the development of the menu and beverage program. The result was a homerun and Caceres added “restaurateur” to his resume.
When it became clear that he loved more the creation process than the actual operations of the project, Caceres sold his interest to his partners and turned his attention to another restaurant opportunity. Like Mamajuana, it involved creating a concept that would work in an area traditionally under served by restaurants – in this instance Harlem. Once again, Caceres created a concept based on the marriage of two cuisines - Thai and Latin - for what became the $3 million, 6000 square foot ThaLay, the first upscale restaurant and entertainment venue north of 125th street in Harlem.
When the recession and internal issues thwarted the promise of a very successful opening, Caceres again sold his interest and was out of the restaurant business. But not too far out – started a new company, Mas Spirits, which imports Dominican Rum and its featured brand Hispaniola Mamajuana, the rum based concoction of herbs, roots, wine, honey and spices, from the Dominican Republic.
“I knew I would get back into the restaurant business, but I wanted to wait for just the right opportunity. I wanted another space in an area that could support good restaurants but for whatever reason didn’t have any.” An area like Riverdale, where Caceres had lived for two years, coincidentally right behind the space which now houses Oregano Bar & Bistro.
“It was a restaurant then too, one that had been there forever and had seen much better days. But the space itself always appealed to me. I thought it had great bones.”
When Caceres found out it was available, he grabbed it, while not being entirely sure what he would do with it. The inspiration came over a family meal for which his teenage son Darian had made a particularly tasty sandwich that reminded Caceres of a Croque – Monsieur, but had a Spanish style sauce similar to Alioli.
It occurred to me it was an unusual combination, but a very successful one. And I wondered if I’d ever heard of a restaurant that showcased both cuisines and maybe Portuguese as well. The more I thought about it, I realized I didn’t know of one and that it was a concept that could work in the Johnson Avenue space.”
Moments later His wife, a corporate insurance broker came up with the name, reasoning oregano is an important culinary herb used in Iberian and French food.
Caceres considers Oregano Bar & Bistro the foundation of his latest creation, Urban Hospitality Collective, which will develop, institute, operate and / or manage food, restaurant and hotel concepts.
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