The Reunion

Posted: August 25, 2010 in Hall of Fame Posts

Aug. 20, 2010 will go down as being one of the most important days in the Sabi Sushi adventure. Let’s take it from the top…

10:00am: We picked Shaan up at the airport. It was the first time the whole team would be together in 15 days. Dan was fresh off his Hawaii vacation, I just got back from Memphis and Shaan had just finished his LA session with Phillip. The drive back to Aunt Patti’s basement was hilarious as we all compared our Sushi Central experiences and how differently Phillip had treated us all. Looking back, its crazy that we had planned our lives around opening a restaurant, and just now we finally knew what the hell the sushi side of things was really about…ends up Phillip’s bootcamp was a little more useful than reading Sushi for Dummies…

11:15am: We arrived back at Aunt Patti’s and headed to our basement to continue our discussion. Things were going too good, we all had different insights about what we had learned from Sushi Central and how we could bring these ideas to life in Sabi. We’d rolled rolls, cut fish, chopped veggies…Sushi wasn’t such a mystery anymore…It was like discovering that girls really don’t have cooties.

12:45pm: The discussion moved towards our location search. For the past month we had convinced ourselves that Boulder was our perfect spot…But then Shaan asked a question that would prove to be the turning point of  our day: What happens if we can’t get into either of the spaces in Boulder, what happens then? Nobody had an answer. Up to this point we realized that we had fallen in love with Boulder as a town, and had just assumed that we could make it work, but like Shaan said, what if it doesn’t?

1:15pm: Silence

1:25pm: Trevor: “shit”

1:30pm: More silence

1:32pm: Dan: “lets go grab some food.” We jumped on the opportunity to get out of this basement of gloom. However, leaving the basement didn’t help anything. The car ride was different from our typical laughing, joking and jamming to Mike Posner haha…this one was silent. For the first time during this whole venture I felt lost. What was our backup plan? We have been across the nation looking for spots and decided Boulder was perfect, but if it doesn’t happen, what do we do. We have all of our guns in place to make this restaurant fly. We have been planning on a January opening to coincide with the start of the Spring Semester for CU students, and to pull this off we needed to get in a spot in the next month. If we missed the January opening we were looking at having to wait all the way until next August to open up shop, and frankly I don’t think I have the patience for that kind of wait, especially when I feel so confident in our knowledge, team and concept. Damn.

2:15pm: We tried to talk about our options at lunch but our usual confidence and energy was missing. More and more questions started to come up: What happens if we have to wait another year to make this happen? Where will we get the money to live another year without a real job? And the scariest one of them all… Are we really doing the right thing? We’d worked too damn hard to go back home with our tail between our legs. Everything just needed to work out. It had to. Right? With each question the pit in my stomach grew.

3:00pm: We had an appointment to look at an apartment. Even this seemed pointless, why the hell would we get an apartment with a year-long lease if we don’t even know if we’ll be able to open up our restaurant here?

4:30pm: Back to the basement. At this point we hit rock bottom and resorted to watching shows on our lap tops. We all had the headphones in so we sat in silence. Dan chose to drown his sorrows with How I met Your Mother. Shaan escaped to the fakeness of the Real World and I decided to watch Weeds so I could stare at Mary-Louise Parker for long periods of time.

5:30pm: We were all still watching our shows but I knew that each one of us was thinking about the situation we were in. We had just graduated from Duke University, all of our friends are all doing amazing things and even have jobs and stuff! And here we were sitting in a basement watching tv on our laptops…sweet.

7:30pm: Shaan: “We have to get out of here! Let’s go to Fridays get some food and figure our shit out.” (I’m pretty sure that’s what Steve Jobs said right before he invented the ipod)

8:00pm: We get to Fridays, and plan on having a serious conversation about the business. We take our seats and all of a sudden I feel a huge hand slap me on my slouched back. It’s Demetrius The Bartender who asks, “Happy Hour Brotha’s! How many long islands can I get ya!?” Little did we know this would prove to be one of the answers to our problems.

9:00pm: We were all a few strong islands deep and feeling better about life, there was a dude dancing on the bar and we had a spread of buffalo wings and ranch. Ok ok.

10:00pm: We decided it was time to head to another bar. We hadn’t said a word about Sabi, but instead talked to each other about some of the hardest times we’d ever had in our lives. Family problems, adventures in Costa Rica and more came out of the woodwork…four years living together, and I’d never heard any of these stories…who knew? We finally decided it was time to leave Fridays, so we asked some of the girls we met where we should go. “WHISKEY RIVVVVER!” was the popular answer. We hopped in a cab and headed there.

10:15pm: Arrive at big barn with cars parked all around it. Hmmmm probably not our style but we decided to give it a shot. We walked in decked out in our shorts, Air-Force 1’s, and v-necks and were greeted with a barn full of cowboys dancing to a Big and Rich cover band. The last time I had felt this out of place was when we were at the NY Stock Exchange. Everyone turned to see who the hell these three idiots were coming to their bar.

10:20pm: We decide not to stick around and get branded by the cowboys. Back in the cab and heading for another bar.

10:30pm: Arrive at our new bar, The Penalty Box. Michael Jackson (r.i.p.) was playing on the jukebox. Order a few rounds and take our seats at the bar. 11:30pm: Meet a Tina Fey look alike and her Swedish friend.

12:00am: See another dude dancing on the bar. Greeley is a strange strange place.

1:00am: Convince Tina Fey and her friend that they should buy us drinks because we are homeless.

1:30am: Last call, music turns off and they begin to clear the place out. Why does that always happen when things just start to get fun?

2:00am: Finally listen to the bouncer and leave to the parking lot. Tina and the friend stuck around outside for a bit but ended up leaving cause the “friend” was “tired”…Thanks friend. Good friends like her are hard to find…and harder to get rid of…

2:15am: The three of us found a bench on the side of the road and sat there like a bunch of hobos and started to talk about Sabi. We started things off talking about the most important things we had learned from Phillip. We all agreed that the experience was one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done in our life and it was more than just learning about sushi, but about becoming a man. As Shaan explained a few posts ago, Phillip is one of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet, and he found a way to test us all and make us grow up in the short time we lived with him and worked in his restaurant. We all talked about how we had opened up to Phillip but had never really opened up to one and other. Yeah, we had been best friends for the past 4 years, but were we acting like it?

3:00am: For the next 4 hours we talked about everything. For the first time we laid everything out on the table, we called one and other out for certain things. We praised one and other for what they bring to the team. We admitted that each one of us brought both unique strengths and weaknesses to our team. We talked about what we wanted to get from this venture and the reasons we thought that we had made it to this point. The three of us on paper couldn’t be more different; Shaan was born in Oklahoma, lived in Texas, Denver, China, London and Indonesia he went to Duke to someday become a Sports Medicine Dr., Dan was from New Jersey and had dreamed about becoming a stock trader in NYC is whole life, and I was from a small town in Wyoming and went to Duke to try and play basketball. But despite our different backgrounds we had met and now we were here in this moment, in the middle of Greeley, CO sitting on a curb together growing up as each hour passed. In the end it was obvious, this project was exactly what we needed to be doing with our lives and no matter what happens if the three of us can trust each other, not get flustered by anything and keep our foot on the pedal, it’s going to work.

6:30am: The sun started to rise. But it didn’t matter. Our “problems” of earlier in the day didn’t matter. I have never felt so confident about this venture than I did at that moment. And I know that Shaan and Dan felt the same. The day had been a gut check. But in the end it brought us together. It forced us to re-commit ourselves to this mission, and get back to what had got us to this point.

Even when things get stressful and the situation looks hopeless, sometimes business plans and financial models won’t help you.  Sometimes you’ve got to get out, meet some people, and have some drinks with your boys. Now if you’re lucky, your boys are also your business partners, and you’ll realize that getting drunk in the middle of Greeley, CO, and watching the sun rise with two guys is the right business move to get your swag back.

6:45am: We drove home laughing and joking, at how random the night was. Looking back on this day I realized that it wouldn’t have happened without Phillip’s influence in our lives. He had taught us the importance of a team and how to open up to somebody and absolutely trust them. Yeah, that man was instrumental in giving us the opportunity to learn from his sushi knowledge, but even more importantly he made each one of us into a better person than we were before we met him. For that we’d like to thank you Phillip, you’re the man!


  1. Mr. E says:

    Hey guys,

    I know just how you feel. Watching everyone else get jobs, or go to grad school, or invent the next best quick-fire restaurant to hit the U.S. while you’re working away in a basement filled with papers and books and power bar wrappers without knowing how things are going to turn out.

    All I can say is, “If not now, when?”

    Go get em, brothers of the Duke.

  2. Steve G. says:


    You guys are an inspiration! I’ve been following your blog for some time now and it’s awesome to be along for the ride. Best of luck guys!

    a fellow Dukie,


  3. sabisushi says:

    Thanks for the support brothas!

    Mr. E.

    Hope you’re killing it out there. Your mission is awesome, if anyone can pull it off it’s you man! You’re one of the hardest working and most motivated people we’ve ever seen. Best of luck. Hows everything coming along? Give us the update!

    • Mr. E says:

      Hey Sabi,

      Sorry it took me so long to get back to you all. Been busy, but I’m taking a page out of your book to try and keep everyone up-to-date on how the organization is doing.

      I’m going to try and get in multiple posts a week for a bit. See how it goes.

      But things have been looking up. Who knows…I might actually get to start fundraising at some point!

      Just got to be willing to pay the price to be a champion, as they say.

  4. Jessica says:

    Hahahah!! So funny! I can’t wait until you guys open the store, I think this is going to be huge

  5. Great work so far! Glad you guys made the right choice when it came to gut-check time. I’ll follow your progress, and let me know if there is anything I can help with.

  6. […] restaurant, but even now,  how many businesses blog like this? We’ve blogged about hitting rock bottom (still my favorite post), revealed how we stalked our most important business partner, or about […]

  7. […] first started to become real (winning the Duke Start-Up Challenge), about when we hit rock bottom (living in a basement in Greeley, CO), about meeting and training with our Chef/Big brother Phillip Yi, about the big […]

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