Kou and Janey Lee’s path to business ownership sounds similar to many other stories: They were tired of corporate America and wanted to do their own thing. The husband and wife tossed around the idea of opening a restaurant, focusing mainly on a small bistro or a quaint Thai eatery.
But when the owners of Koreana, loved by many in the area for its sushi and Korean cuisine, announced plans to close the restaurant in September 2017, the couple thought this might be their chance to make their restaurant dreams a reality.
“Many people were saddened by the closure, and we felt compelled that if this is how the market is reacting, maybe it’s worth the risk of trying to rekindle and reopen the restaurant,” Kou Lee says.
The two wasted no time in making the purchase and had the keys in their hands by October 2017. They officially opened for carryout business in December 2017.
The Lees wanted to make their own mark on the restaurant, but with so many existing and loyal patrons, they also were careful not to make any drastic changes. They admit the menu remains mostly similar to what customers were used to seeing, with a few new items — such as new style sashimi, which means the cuts of fish are served already dressed and are plated in a more decorative way.
“We tried not to take away from the original menu, but add to it,” Janey Lee says.
Although they’re the owners, both Kou and Janey are hands-on in the day-to-day operations, from coming up with new menu items to washing the dishes. And while investing that sweat equity into the business is undoubtedly fulfilling, it’s something different that fuels their motivation.
“Ultimately, it’s the passion for connecting with our customers that is the most rewarding to me,” says Kou Lee.
While the two say that Koreana was sort of a “right place at the right time” scenario, they look forward to continuing to grow the business and serve their grateful customers.
“Even though it wasn’t in the plan, I think things happen for a reason,” Janey Lee says.