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Andrea Sikora presides over a growing family of restaurants, with three already up and running and a fourth on the way this spring. But this “Woman of Market” wasn’t born into the business. In fact, Andrea had no previous experience in the restaurant industry before opening La Fia with her husband, Chef Bryan Sikora. But she certainly knew what she liked to eat…
“I am just a natural-born foodie. I was eating sushi in college when I was 19 years old, back in 1994 when raw fish still scared people. I definitely had no limits on what I would eat.”
“But my background is in the medical sciences. I did my masters at Cornell, in pharmacology – actually in the Ph.D program but, you know, if you're going to take that time to get a Ph.D. and then do a postdoc, you better want to do that for the rest of your life. And as I was entering my third year of graduate school, I realized that it just wasn’t for me. And I liked the nightlife a little too much.”
“So I bounced around New York a little before moving to Boston and becoming entrenched in the pharmaceutical industry. I was in pharmaceutical sales, then I went into medical affairs and a little biotech … and that's what I did until I had my children.”
She was divorced and remarried to Bryan while he was working in Philadelphia, having left the helm at Talula’s Table in Kennett Square after his own divorce.
“I was pregnant with Sophie, my third child, and I was telling him, you need to open your own restaurant. So I started looking. We lived in Kennett Square and I didn't know much about Wilmington, but I knew I liked urban environments and I had learned that liquor licenses in Delaware were not as cost prohibitive as they were in Pennsylvania. And I knew there was a huge population of people working in the city and there was an arts scene that could support a restaurant.”
The Sikoras opened La Fia to instant acclaim. At first, Andrea tried to stay in her job at AstraZeneca, but she soon felt drawn into restaurant life.
“I couldn't focus on my job. I'm just such a control freak. I had to be part of everything. I had to watch everything. I had to make sure that every person who walked out of here was happy and if they weren't, why not? That's still who I am to this day.”
“I love decor. I love design. I love writing menus. I love creating, coming up with cocktails, working with my bartenders. The whole creative process is definitely something I really enjoy. I didn't know that I would.”
Six years later, the Sikoras have opened Merchant Bar on Market, Hearth in Kennett Square and their upcoming fourth restaurant in Trolley Square … but Andrea remains a regular welcoming presence inside her first restaurant.
“We took a chance here. A lot of people told me not to do this. But I felt like the data was telling me otherwise. And the fact that we've been able to persist down here has maybe given other people the confidence to invest and spend money on restaurants and Market Street.”
“We'll be six years in June, you know. Not every day is this packed. But I take pride in our lunch business. I wrote our whole lunch menu and our lunch crowd is very loyal. And I’m here making sure it's all as good as it can possibly be.”