How are y’all doing?
It’s been a little over two weeks now since we wrapped things up at Saké Nomi’s original location on Washington Street, and we just wanted to get in touch so that there is a minimum of that “out of sight, out of mind” action going on.
Since our temporary closure, I’m having a hard time keeping track of which day it is, though it’s pretty much been that way since that first intense Covid wave back in March, when weekdays and the weekend seemed to slowly have lost their characteristics of differentiation. Or whatever.
The new lockdown measures (no indoor bar/restaurant service, etc.) wouldn’t have changed much about the way we’d been conducting business for most of 2020, but they have re-emphasized what dire circumstances Washingtonians and, particularly, Seattle-area residents find ourselves in, and our thoughts are with all our friends and customers who are doing their best to adapt, stay healthy, and cope.
As we prepare to launch “Saké Nomi 2.0,” the past couple weeks, in kind of a weird way, remind me of the half-year or so before we opened Saké Nomi, when Taiko and I were working from home doing whatever we could to get the shop opened as soon as possible. It was an intense, exciting, very nerve-wracking period, especially since no one had yet opened a “sake only” shop and tasting bar in the U.S., and we, of course, had no experience managing that kind of venture. Precarious position? Most definitely – we were barely a year into having moved to a new house, Taiko and I were both between paying gigs, and our twin daughters were navigating their way through second grade.
The mist of reminiscence (and the fog resulting from the depletion of sake soaked memory-related brain cells) leaves me with deeper, more long-lasting impressions of the good days of that period as opposed to the desperate days of uncertainty, and wouldn’t it be grand if that’s the way memory just worked?
I remember the best days of that preparation period going something like this: We’d have breakfast and get the girls off to school, and around mid-morning Taiko and I would take a long walk, during which we would brainstorm and bounce business ideas off each other, returning home shortly after noon. When we had the sake on hand, we would do a tasting at the island in our (sun-filled? again, with the rosy memories) kitchen, making notes not only about the sake, but also compiling “sake drinking music” (with a naturally developing emphasis on jazz, blues, and reggae) that we felt amplified our experience and appreciation of the sake. We would chat about potential food pairings and Taiko sprang into action, whipping up the perfect accompaniment on the spot. (True story: I had no idea what a fantastic cook Taiko is when we first started dating in Japan, and her culinary talents have never ceased to delight and amaze me in the years since.)
When the afternoon’s sake and circumstances were particularly inspiring, a very satisfying siesta would happen, and I’d roust myself in time to walk up and meet the girls at their school bus stop at the top of the hill. Those were, indeed, the days.
This time around, as we prepare to open the new shop (mini-news flash: we’ve signed the lease, applied for the transfer of our liquor license, and are researching new sake and brewers to present at the new joint), we’re navigating pandemic-related circumstances and restrictions as best we can from home. It’s definitely a stressful atmosphere, and while we are frustrated by the delays, there’s also a sense that things are unfolding and developing as they must.
Opening a new business (particularly a bar/tavern or restaurant) during a pandemic would be a daunting, certifiably insane proposition, and while it does feel like that, we’ve been able to find comfort and encouragement in knowing that we’ve already developed a terrific, supportive customer base. Unlike back in 2006, we’re NOT starting from zero. Back then, to a certain extent, we stumbled forward blindly with the naive Field of Dreams-inspired attitude that “if we build it, they will come.” (Fun fact: that’s Taiko’s all-time favorite movie. I can’t count the times we’ve driven past a cornfield and she earnestly asks, “Is this heaven?” Right up there with the occasions we’ve gone over train tracks in the middle of nowhere and she begins moaning and groaning an unintelligible tune before belting out “IN THE NIGHT!” her homage to the movie, Stand by Me.)
So, though we’ve had to temporarily close and cease our retail operations, and though our new location and the times we’re in will, no doubt, alter and influence our business going forward (online sales and shipping to come, we promise), as we approach this reopening we are NOT filled with the same anxiety of “starting.” We feel like when we open the doors (hopefully, in the next month or so), you’ll be right there with us and we can kind of pick up where we left off – refreshed, rededicated, and reinspired. It’s difficult to express how important this sense of us not being on our own is, and the feeling of momentum your presence provides as we press ahead, but it feels indispensable and we’re amazed at the Saké Nomi community that has developed over the brief years of our concept’s existence.
Thank you for supporting us and for enjoying the journey with us – we are so very grateful.
Please stay tuned, Kanpai, and best wishes to you and yours,
Johnnie & Taiko