June 25, 2020 By Max Murray
The owner of Takesushi has weathered the ups and downs of the restaurant business for almost forty years and can now add going through the COVID-19 global health crisis to his list of achievements.
Robin Kawada, who opened a sushi restaurant on Park Avenue in 1975, remains certain that his business will survive the economic fallout from COVID-19 and will not be one of the many bars and restaurants predicted not to survive.
Kawada said that he will remain in business doing what he does best—providing fresh seafood in accordance to Japanese tradition to Queens residents.
Kawada, however, like most restaurant owners has had to make many adjustments given the crisis.
Often he travels to Tokyo in order to purchase fish– something he has been unable to do given the travel restrictions.
“Most fresh seafood imports come in 48 hours after catch,” he says. “My trips reduced that time to 18 hours, providing some of the freshest Japanese fish possible.”
Takesushi is now getting all its fish from local markets. He says that he has worked during the pandemic– despite not being able to generate a profit.
“I do it for the customers,” Kawada said, noting that he lowered his prices by about 40 percent. “I don’t make much money but I love doing it.”
Kawada during the shutdown was forced to lay off some staff. Takesushi until last week was down to five employees. One of those employees is a sushi chef, who now lives with him.
“He lives at home with me. I can’t have any risks. If I get sick the business gets shut down.”
Although Phase 2 of reopening is now underway in the five boroughs, Kawada is not looking to jump into things too quickly and will continue to operate his business in the safest way possible.
“Yes, it’s more work now, but it’s what I love. I just can’t risk getting sick.”
As global supply chains improve, Kawada has said fresh fish pricing is starting to go down again and will make life easier for himself and the customers.
He still makes his regular morning trips to the New Fulton Fresh Fish Market in the Bronx.
“I don’t want to stop.” says Kawada.
Takesushi operates on an altered schedule. They are open from 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. for lunch and 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. for dinner. They are closed on Wednesdays.
Meanwhile Japan Pizza, a restaurant that is owned by a friend of Kawada’s and will open next door to Takesushi, has been delayed in opening.
The owner is currently stuck in Japan due to travel restrictions and is unable to get the business underway.