May 02, 2014 – Austin Business Journal Profile: Roger Chan
Perhaps best known in Austin as the former assistant city manager and the guy who rides an Indian motorcycle around town, Roger Chan has worn many hats — chef, civil servant, consultant and actor. A fourth-generation American with a pure bloodline that goes back to the last ruling family in China, Chan is still about as Texan as they come — and he has at least a dozen cowboy hats and boots to prove it.
Brushes with death? Chan knows them well. He almost drowned at age 25 and has had several accidents — including a motorcycle collision that cost him his lower left leg in 2010.
After the loss of his leg, Chan was faced with a need to rebuild his body and finances — and developed a strong desire to give back, especially to veterans with whom he feels a special affinity as both a motorcycle enthusiast and accident survivor.Through a series of coincidences, good karma, and an action plan, the avid biker has parlayed his love of bikes, food and knowledge of city processes to buy a vintage gas station in Jonestown. The plan is to turn it into the Rolling Thunder Roadhouse, an upscale, family-friendly biker bar complemented by craft beer, food trucks, live music and a reputation for employing veterans.
How’s the bar coming along? We had our commission meeting on our change of use application in Jonestown. We got it, next is the Council meeting in early May for final decision.
How is the restaurant business different in Austin than elsewhere? How is it the same? In Austin, I have never seen more novices and rookies open businesses. Restaurants are the same here as elsewhere in that those who find their market, or niche, survive.
When did you get into motorcycles? I started riding bikes in 1967; averaging 13,000 to 15,000 miles a year in the saddle through rain, sleet, hail, heat and cold of night. I am back to full-time motorcycling. Every day is a good day to ride.
Does your wife ride? My wife, Donna, does not like motorcycles nor me riding them but does admit I am a much mellower person after I ride. The kids don’t ride yet.
Strongest character trait? I live a life of congruency. I prefer to live by example rather than telling others what to do.
Best lesson learned the hard way? If you are not willing to lose the shirt off your back, you will never find those who won’t take it.
Biggest business mistake? Making a deal on a handshake.
Best advice? Never share your dreams with people who don’t dream.
Do you have a bucket list? I have lived most of my life completing my bucket list. I aspire to expire rather than retire especially now that I am faced with having to start over financially [as a result of medical bills].
Something people may not know: I am a SAG-e [Screen Actors Guild-eligible] talent. Have been a principal in regional, national and international commercials and in a reality TV pilot called “Race to Dinner.” Also, I played a doctor in “Jumping off Bridges,” and a doctor in the ABC/Disney episodic TV show “My Generation.” And I secretly would love to be a state or federal Senator.
Do you have any collections? I collect good people. My greatest treasure, joy and sense of pride are my family and friends. My most prized possession is a multigenerational family jade ring.
What do you think is the best invention in the past 50 years? Prosthesis that replicates human movement as close as possible.
Patricia Rogers is the Austin Business Journal’s research director, responsible for compiling information in the ABJ Book of Lists.