Umi Fort Wayne– This is How They Roll
Jan02

Umi Fort Wayne– This is How They Roll

What do you get when the CEO of Lutheran Health Network and Lutheran Hospital (Brian Bauer), the CEO of Dupont Hospital (Aaron Garofola) and an Oncologist at Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology (Dr. Ryan Gonzales) join forces? A new sushi restaurant! Sushi is my favorite food group so I was quite happy to sit and chat with Ryan about the newest sushi and seafood restaurant in Fort Wayne – Umi.   If you are from Terre Haute, you would have heard of Umi Grill, which opened in 2001 as the first Japanese restaurant in Terre Haute. The first question I posed to Ryan, was how they came up with the concept of bringing Umi to Fort Wayne. “Brian, Aaron, and I are long time friends from Terre Haute……it’s a pretty small town.  It wasn’t a traditional destination for great sushi. The typical options were Texas Roadhouse or hamburger joints.” When Umi Grill came to town it quickly became their favorite spot. In fact, “it was the number one restaurant in Terre Haute and people would come from larger cities like Indy,” just to get their sushi fix.  “A lot of doctors like me did their residency on coastal cities, so they became accustomed to sushi and seafood that was fresh. I did mine at Louisiana State University. Have you had food in the south? Amazing. But then when you have sushi with less than fresh ingredients it’s just subpar. You know there is something better out there.”   When Brian moved to Fort Wayne in 2011, Ryan moved shortly thereafter and, along with Aaron, they started brainstorming on how to bring an Umi-like concept to Fort Wayne.  “People have been begging Qi [owner of Umi Grill] to expand, to franchise. He always said no, but he entertained the idea with us, because we were great customers and had a passion for his food and brand.” This began over two and a half years of detailed and methodical planning to convince Qi to allow them to bring Umi to the Fort. “He wanted someone who had his vision. It was his name, and he wanted control of the quality and the brand. He wanted a single stand-alone restaurant and didn’t want the restaurant to be cheapened by a strip mall setting.”   Aaron, Brian, and Ryan all set to work putting together a well-executed business plan, including use of the same distributors that Umi used in order to maintain the same quality and high standards of the original. After multiple revisions, they were able to create a concept that surpassed the original owner’s vision. “We made his dream come true!” Ryan laughed. “He helped...

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