June 1st marked the opening of the Meishu Center Yokohama. It was less than 24 hours after passing the city health inspection. So there was little time for announcing any type of grand opening party. A soft and gradual opening was my preference. There is still some fine tuning that is required. But the shop is officially operational, and the doors opened on June 1.
Not surprisingly, at 5:00pm when the doors opened, there were not any customers. During this anxious time, it was just the core group of four supporters that helped me to launch this business. We eased the anxiety by sampling some of the inventory.
Earlier in the day, there was some surprising support from a local business neighbor. Ochoko is a delightful standing sake bar that is located 2 minutes from the Meishu Center Yokohama. The two businesses are similar. One might automatically conclude that the two businesses are competitors and natural rivals. However, the personal acquaintance of the Ochoko ownership and Meishu Center Yokohama ownership began before either shop had opened. We met randomly at a sake industry event. After each business prepared for opening in the same Okano cho location, a mutually supportive business relationship evolved.
So it was nice to receive the goodwill gesture from Ochoko on opening day. As some of the loyal Ochoko customers visited the Meishu Center Yokohama on opening day. Both businesses are small. If one reaches full capacity, it is convenient for customers to have a nearby back-up option, or a place to have a sake tasting while waiting for an available spot.
As a foreigner breaking into the nihonshu industry, I have discovered it is a close knit industry. Entering the sake trade industry is not easy for newcomers. It is a small circle. However, it is also a very supportive community once you gain entry. I have had the good fortune to have a business partner and industry friends that enabled me to quickly make introductions to key industry contacts.
On a more local level, the nihonshu and friendly neighborly relationship of Meishu Center Yokohama and Ochoko is also beneficial for the local sake consumer market. It unites and builds the local sake community.