For the first time in more than a decade, Incline Village is without a sushi restaurant.
Yoshimi Sushi closed its doors in the Christmas Tree Village shopping center on Aug. 15 after serving the community Japanese cuisine for nearly 15 years.
Incline resident and restaurant co-owner Bryan Pavone said he shut down after Yoshimi’s lease agreement expired in February and he was unable to sign a new one, due to disagreements with the shopping center’s owner, Radomir Vukodin.
“In addition to what I saw as an unfair hike in rent, Christmas Tree Village has many problems that needed to be addressed and the new landlord was not willing to fix them,” Pavone said. “Yoshimi Sushi has seven leaks in the roof, a massive hole in the foundation that causes the pipes to freeze, and various other issues.”
Vukodin, a Bay Area resident who’s owned the Christmas Tree Village for about three and a half years, said he was unable to come to a lease agreement with Yoshimi.
“The sushi place didn’t seem to be doing so well. It wasn’t open a lot,” he said.
While rents vary in the shopping center based on space (Vukodin charges $1.50 per square foot a month, plus other expenses), he said Yoshimi was charged $3,600 per month to rent out the center’s easternmost suite.
In all, as many as seven to 10 employees lost their jobs with Yoshimi’s closure, although Pavone said the staff was able to secure other employment.
“I’m not surprised really. The crew was amazing,” he said.
Pavone and his father, Arnie, bought the business from Michael Lee on Feb. 1, 2007, and kept the Yoshimi name. Rhonda and Owen Chiong originally opened Yoshimi Sushi in December 1999.
Pavone said he’s focused on opening a new restaurant, but as far as when and where, that’s unknown.
“Unfortunately, Yoshimi Sushi is gone. I am definitely planning on reopening a sushi restaurant, but … I do not yet have a location or time frame,” he said. “I am also going to work on the concept and the execution a bit. We learned a ton from Yoshimi Sushi and will carry all those lessons on to the next venue.
“This is a time for the restaurant to change and reinvent itself. I am not dead set on it, but it seems to me that a name change would be a good idea.”
As for the immediate future, Pavone — a Plattsburgh, N.Y., native who moved to Lake Tahoe when he was 6 months old and is a 2000 graduate of Incline High School — said he’s enjoying his time off, and “maybe a research trip to Japan is in order.”
“I am Incline Village through and through, and it has been an honor and pleasure serving the community that I love, represent and defend,” Pavone said. “I can’t tell you how overwhelming it was to realize how many people in the community love and support us. Honestly the thing I’ll miss the most is serving all my customers. They have become a huge part of my life, more like extended family than patrons.”
The Chiongs previously owned Sumo Sushi, which opened in the same location on the Fourth of July in 1998.
The restaurant shut down September of that year, however, not long after Shao Ziong Wu — the former manager — was arrested on federal charges after he stole diners’ credit card numbers and gave them to others who made domestic purchases and counterfeited new cards.
Vukodin said he hopes to host a new tenant in the space (likely another restaurant), as well as in another suite formerly leased to the Tahoe Store Emporium, soon. Anyone interested may contact him at 408-386-7921.