Genki Sushi reopens to wave of loyal customers

LIHUE — Tia Kawamura, 9, wanted to see the train at Genki Sushi in Kukui Grove Center on Friday.

“We used to come here a couple of times a month,” said Malia Kawamura, Tia’s mother. “When she heard about the train, we had to be the first in line. The East Complex schools are out today, so this is perfect.”

Genki Sushi Kauai reopened with the traditional “irrashaimasu!” led by Mary Hansen, the chief administrative officer for Genki Sushi USA.

“It’s so good to be open, again,” said Eileen Riccardo, a Genki Sushi employee. “We weren’t working during the time the restaurant was closed. There were a couple of times we got called in to help put away things, or help clean, but for the most times, we weren’t working. I’m so glad to be back.”

Work came to a halt for the 40 Kauai employees after a hepatitis A outbreak closed the restaurant chain statewide in August.

During the restaurant’s closure, it worked with the Department of Health to clear any sources of potential contamination, Hansen said.

No one in the company’s staff of 300 people was let go, and everyone came back after doors reopened Friday.

“We used to come here every Sunday,” said Priscilla Aki, who was waiting for the doors to open. “Unfortunately, they had to shut down, but now they’re open. We like it. As far as hepatitis A, if it happens, it happens. We are what we eat.”

The Kukui Grove store received approval last week from the Hawaii State Department of Health to reopen after complying with the department’s conditions, including confirmation that none of its employees scheduled to work for the reopening test positive for hepatitis A.

The health department has confirmed 271 cases of hepatitis A since the outbreak began in late June.

Health officials have identified frozen scallops imported from the Philippines as the probable source of the outbreak.

The Philippine government has temporarily suspended distribution of the seafood in question.

JoAnn Yadao said she had to get a hepatitis shot two months ago.

“But I love the food here, and I’m happy they’re reopen,” she said. “My daughter, Tiana Iida, is also happy because she wants to work here. She’s coming by to fill out an application.”

During the restaurant’s closure, about $300,000 in improvements were done to the facility, including touch screen ordering and delivery by a double rail express systems.

“This is the first neighbor island Genki Sushi to offer this,” Hansen said. “We have five locations on Oahu that have this and proven to be successful. We were talking with Wade Lord and trying to figure out how and when we would install this new equipment after completing our renovations in 2014.”

Charlene Quinones said Genki Sushi is the best place to eat on Kauai.

“The food is good, and we used to eat here a lot,” he said. “Right now, we had to come.”

Customer flow was steady Friday and Hansen said the feedback was positive.

“The support and warm welcome from our customers is very encouraging and much appreciated,” Hansen said.

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