What is your key to success in maintaining a restaurant business?
: We’re lucky; people eat and will spend money on food. What really helps
is that we have this mission to reconnect people to the food they eat and those
they eat with. We operate little neighborhood restaurants that are committed to
our community and to our farmers. People gravitate to that. In 2008 and 2009 in
the heat of the recession when restaurants were closing left and right, we
continued to grow. Frequently I say that a local, community-driven food system
is recession proof, and we are proof to that.
: I think that from a business perspective, for sure, that is the
answer. Personally, I think we strive hard for balance in our lives and that
might separate us from other restaurants, as we’re still able to enjoy what
Hawaii is about and not just be a slave to the stove.
I got an e-mail from a customer a while back that said, 'Ed, I not only
feel good eating at Town; I feel good about eating at Town.' So what I think
that says is that if people are going to spend money, they want to spend money
where they know it’s going back into the local economy, going to local farmers
-- it’s creating local jobs.
What’s the most important thing you look for when choosing a bank?
: We initially chose Hawaii National Bank
because they were right across the street, they had a drop box outside, and they
seemed nice enough. But that was 10 years ago, and in those 10 years, they have
become a key part of this “Town Tribe” that we talk about. I walk in and there’s
Keith and Carole and LaReina and Vivian, and it’s always the same smile you’re
greeted with. When it came time to scale our operations and grow, they were the
first people we went to. They were the ones that put together a financing
package with the help of the Small Business Administration that not only
addressed acquisition, but also improvement dollars. We have also shifted all of
our merchant service transactions over to them as they were able to find us a
better rate than we could find with any other service. They think ahead – Keith
Shimomura, the branch manager, came to me and asked me, “Is there a time where
you feel financially strapped? Do you ever think you’re going to need more
money? How about a line of credit?” It’s something I hadn’t even thought about.
So Hawaii National Bank helped me fill out some paperwork, which I hate doing,
and the next thing you know, we have a reserve line of credit that we can tap
into. There’s a lot more to our business-bank relationship now than proximity.