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Our Story: The Grand Opening (Part 4)

After over a year of working, fighting and preparing we finally opened!! The event was symbolic of our struggle to get this venture off the ground and open to the public.
The Grand opening of Smokehouse was a huge day for us, as everything we had worked so hard for was finally starting to come to life. We were able to see our vision come to life with our friends and others in the community to celebrate the journey that we had been on and about to start as well.

The Grand Opening Pouring of Beers!
Marea deschidere Turnare de bere!

We were very thankful for everyone that came to the event, especially those who help us in different ways along the way of starting/opening Smokehouse. We had many people who volunteered their time to help us in many different ways, especially with building the restaurant.

Tostul la marea deschidere cu H.E. Ambasadorul Dl James Pettit

We built Smokehouse with a purpose, to show people that it is possible to start a business even one as complicated to start as a restaurant, without paying bribes. Then continue running it while paying all of the taxes, high quality service, beer and food!

Bucurându-se de berea artizanală Moldovenescă împreună cu prietenii!

Bringing it forward to today, while we are gearing up for New Years and celebrating the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 we have been able to see how much Smokehouse has grown, evolved and developed since we have opened. The now staples of Smokehouse like Trivia night, English Over Beers, Game night, American Football, Wings night! as well as Brunch.

We will continue to work hard to bring new things, whether it is beer, food or events to our customers! The community that has developed around Smokehouse is awesome, we love it and keeps us encouraged to keep on going! We look forward to the New Year and all the new and exciting things to come!


Smokehouse Team

Our Story: The Bureaucracy (Part 3)

Opening a restaurant in Moldova is no easy task.. Especially when you do it without paying bribes.

We spent a whole year working to open Smokehouse, spending that time working on visa problems, finding a location, figuring out the process of opening a restaurant, the requirements and creating a plan of getting those things done. All in all the process took around a year from when we began the process until we were ready to open. A lot was learned along the way, the many fights with bureaucracy, huge amount of paperwork, authorizations, creating relationships with suppliers, building the restaurant, setting up the kitchen, hiring employees and getting the menu ready. Not to mention thousands and thousands of stamps. It was a very busy time… often not in a good way. In the process we dedicated ourselves to follow the standards of clean business set by Transparency International:

  1. We will carry out our business fairly, honestly and openly.
  2. We will not make bribes, nor will we condone the offering of bribes on our behalf, so as to gain a business advantage.
  3. We will not accept bribes, nor will we agree to them being accepted on our behalf in order to influence business.
  4. We will avoid doing business with others who do not accept our values and who may harm our reputation.
  5. We will set out our processes for avoiding direct or indirect bribery, and keeping to and supporting our values.
  6. We will make sure that everyone in our business and our business partners know our Principles.


We will keep to these Principles even when it becomes difficult.


You can learn more about this on our page Business Philosophy.

We have also created a blog that follows our experiences opening a business in Moldova and all the challenges, craziness and just plain corruption that we faced along the way. Check it out at Opensource Entrepreneurship.

There are a lot of opportunities in Moldova, but unfortunately there is a high barrier to entry into the Moldovan market. If you are looking for a challenge and a completely new experience, then start a business in Moldova :).


Our Story: Why Smokehouse? BBQ? (Part 2)

Bringing American BBQ to Moldova.

Questions that we are asked quite often is why did we start a restaurant? Do any of the founders have experience running or working at a restaurant? The answer is that none of the founders have experience working in a restaurant besides Matt who worked for two (long) weeks at Taco Bell. While both Vlad and David have no experience.

The original idea was just to start a business here to take advantage of some of the opportunities we saw around us. BBQ itself was an evolution through a number of conversations about our skills, passions and what we thought Moldova was ready for. American BBQ is a cool spot where many Moldovans enjoy a traditional American food that isn’t too spicy or too niche for them. And who doesn’t like beer?! Moldova didn’t have a craft beer bar when we opened but was producing some awesome local brews. We felt we needed to highlight that and when you bring people together over food, drinks and service with a smile, community is your outcome. Hence the name 🙂

Why the name Smokehouse?

Basically it is only significant in how simple it is. A “smokehouse” is a place you smoke meat. Many BBQ restaurants are named “Billy’s Smokehouse” etc and it’s a really common piece of the name of American BBQ restaurants around the world. So, after debating and debating about how to name our Smokehouse we realized that there wasn’t a Smokehouse within 2 countries of us… so we figured just Smokehouse is fine 🙂

Is the BBQ at Smokehouse different than what you would find in America?

Our BBQ is made with traditional recipes combined with locally sourced fresh ingredients. The only thing classically used in American BBQ not found in Moldova is molasses from cane sugar. Traditionally this would be used to brine the meat and as a base for the sauce and baked beans. We substitute locally produced honey to keep the sweet flavor with with a local twist.

Bringing American BBQ to Moldova has had its challenges but we are very happy that we can share a piece of American culture with Moldova!


Team Smokehouse

Our Story: The Beginning (Part 1)

Our Story: The Beginning (Part 1)

In the late spring of 2014 the began process of opening a restaurant in Moldova. The idea was to create something new, community centered and delicious! This is how the idea of starting a BBQ restaurant was born because it is something that is uniquely American but also not too different for the Moldovan palate. There are three founders of Smokehouse, two Americans (David & Matt) and one Moldovan (Vlad), all have different backgrounds and stories of how they got where they are today. You can check each of their profiles on the Smokehouse website.

The main reason for starting the business was to prove that it was possible to start a business in Moldova the right way. To have a “clean” business when many people said that it was not possible or smart to run a business in Moldova that does not pay bribes and actually pays taxes… all of them. Secondary reason was that it would be a fun challenge to start a restaurant and bring American BBQ to Moldova to share American culture and delicious BBQ. Lastly it was a way to be able to continue to support and help Moldova by investing, providing jobs and running a business that is a model of how to do clean business.

The road of opening a restaurant in Moldova was not an easy one, it took a year of fighting corruption, bureaucracy, unreliable suppliers and other day to day craziness. It was also a creative challenge to bring American recipes to Moldova, sourcing ingredients and equipment, like a smoker for the meat. As well as building the restaurant itself to feel like a BBQ place you would find in America.

Although it has been a tough road getting started and everyday brings its own set of challenges, Smokehouse is proud to say that they have stayed true to their principles and passion. We are thankful for all of the people who have helped us along the way and our customers who make all this possible! We look forward to the BBQ, beer and community to come in the future!

Read more about the process of opening a restaurant in Moldova at Opensource Entrepreneurship.


A few memories from the founders while working on opening the restaurant:

Vlad: Before meeting David and Matt I had no idea what American BBQ and craft beer was like. I only knew BBQ like shashlik and normal beer you normally find in Moldova blonda/bruna. Also while building the restaurant, we decided to make our decor of the restaurant from pallets, burned pallets to be specific. We found the wood but it was very wet.. I can remember that smell to this day!! With all of that wood drying out in winter with almost no heat. I would call that a very unique experience.. But it turned out well!

Matt: Lacquer. Lac. лак. It was everywhere and never ending. We had so much wood to cover and so many layers of lacquer. I ruined multiple pairs of jeans, shirts, anything else I wore and even my hands were sticky for weeks. Just non-stop lacquer is what I will remember most about our Pre-Opening times. Swimming in a pool of lacquer. Fun times!


Thanks for being apart of our story and we look forward to the future!

Team Smokehouse

About the Founders: Vlad

The only Moldovan founder of Smokehouse is Vlad Shuleansky. He has lived in Chisinau his entire life. For many years Vlad was working in an IT company, doing data mining, outsourcing and SEO for many companies in Moldova as well as abroad. Besides that, he is also an experienced volunteer who dedicated a lot of time fighting human trafficking, gender discrimination and domestic violence by empowering youth through business. All this work led him to founding Smokehouse a place that will be focused on local products, ideas, and community. One that he hopes can inspire other entrepreneurial minded people in Moldova.
Being a fan of BBQ, Vlad is sure that its uniqueness will attract Moldovans, and bring the business needed for success. He strongly believes that passion is the key ingredient to success anywhere in the world. The passion Vlad feels about the Smokehouse concept led him to join Matt and David without hesitation and will power him while starting this venture here in Moldova.
Smokehouse is not Vlad’s only passion, Vlad is also the founder and captain of the “Flying Mamaligas” . The sport is very new to Moldova, so new that not many Moldovans have heard of it. Vlad and the Flying Mamaligas are hoping to change that by publicizing the sport via their facebook page and joining multiple international competitions

Vlad loves Moldova, but sees the problems that it has and wants to stay and do something about it.

About the Founders: Matt

Matt Stahlman is another founder of Smokehouse S.R.L. It is hard to say where Matt is from, because he spent most of his life moving not only all across America but also living for 2 years in Saudi Arabia. He graduated from Peter F. Drucker School of Management with a master’s degree in Politics, Economics and Business. Later, Matt joined Peace Corp and moved to the Republic of Moldova, where he spent 2 years as a Small Enteprise Development Volunteer. Like many volunteers, the range of his work spread to many domains, such as: creating a website for a government agency, roasting and pureeing 100 pounds of pumpkin in his small ex soviet bloc apartment kitchen, teaching trainings about volunteering and many more. In order to escape the monotony of Chisinau beer, Matt began home-brewing beer styles that he enjoyed in the USA. Between that and cooking, Matt took joy in sharing the new tastes and flavors with his local friends. Over the course of his Peace Corp life, Matt hosted multiple food booths, where he observed that people enjoy BBQ, which let him to believe in the future success of Smokehouse. What inspired Matt, to stay in Moldova, was the potential that he sees in the country, which he wants to help develop.

About the Founders: David

David Smith is one of the founders of Smokehouse S.R.L. a Virginia native with a passion for BBQ and bringing new ideas to the communities he’s involved in. David graduated from Georgia Tech in 2010, and lived abroad ever since. While he was a student, David lived in Singapore, which started his love for foreign countries. That’s why shortly after graduating university, David joined Peace Corps and moved to Kazakhstan to work as an English teacher, where he also learned Russian. However,neither English nor teaching was David’s major in college. He actually studied electrical engineering( which, of course, is very useful when teaching English). After Kazakhstan, he moved to Moldova as a Peace Corp Volunteer, where he used his skills, while working as a community developer. He also worked on web development and consulting for NGOs and Local Government. In this time he developed a passion for bringing new ideas (and tastes) to Moldova through a variety of fundraisers and events aimed at exposing Moldovans to American foods while raising money for good causes. After living here for two years, David decided that this is the country where he wants to stay and open Smokehouse.
The most concrete proof that David never gives up, is the fact that he owns a Lada- a car that he often works on, repairs and doesn’t give up, when the rest of the world already has.




2016 Mug Club – Mugs O’ Plenty at Smokehouse!!!


We have decided that September every year is Mug Month and throughout the month you will have the opportunity to get your very own MOP 2016! We’re designing unique yearly MOPs that are separate from the previous Indiegogo MOPs (which of course are still valid for life). We will have an Oktoberfest party in the first part of October to celebrate the new MOPs and issue all your perks!!

Benefits and Perks

  • The Mug: A personalized Smokehouse MOP is specifically designed every year (yes it will have your name on it!)
  • The T-Shirt: A newly designed T-Shirt with the MOP logo and year.
  • MOP Day: One day each week, Mug Club members receive ½ priced appetizers.
  • Birthday Gift Card: Come in on your birthday and get a 200 lei discount on your check.
    • The Discounts
      • 10% discount on all draft AND bottled beers (in your mug)
      • 50% discount on growler purchase (growlers coming soon!)
      • 10% discount on all growler fills

Costs and conditions

  • September is Mug Month. All MOPs (except the original 18 from Indiegogo) are renewable yearly in September
  • New MOP Club memberships cost 700 lei. Limited quantities – first come first served!

Smokehouse has been remodeled

We posted a while ago about the remodeling process, and now we are happy to say that it’s almost over! If you ever remodeled anything, you know how hard it is, and if you ever remodeled a Turkish restaurant into a BBQ joint, why didn’t you warn us?

It sure took a while, but now the renovation are almost over, and Smokehouse is fully furnitured. (Insert pictures here)

As always, there is a story behind every single piece of furniture you see. Booths and chairs weren’t always this color, it took David weeks to bring them to the state they are in(if you want to see how it’s done, here is a video of David burning them : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-JskvWh3GU)

Those who follow the Open Source blog (http://opensource-entrepreneurship.org) know that things aren’t always easy when one decides to order anything in Moldova, but we had better luck with chairs. Obviously, it took a while to find a company that was willing to make the chairs according to our design, but when we finally did, they turned out great. A big debate came when they were delivered, and the question was asked “ Should we burn them?” In Smokehouse, the answer to this question is always the same “ Yes, burn them!”

(Insert picture of chairs before they were burned)

We promised some of our Indiegogo Supporters to burn their names into barstools forever, and have kept our word. After trying and failing at burning them ourselves, we were able to find a pyrography class in Chisinau that were able to do a much better job. Those who ordered those names- you can be sure that they will stay a part of Smokehouse forever.
As we fight to finally open, we have more challenges to face, but at least now Smokehouse really does look like an authentic American BBQ restaurant.