Like many businesses, Kyojin Stewhouse suffered a decrease in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, owner Alan Fisher reacted quickly by moving his business online, launching the Kyojin Store on April 8.
Connect talked with Fisher about his journey since launching his Kyojin brand, how he dealt with the pandemic, and his plans for the future.
Bringing Irish Cuisine to Japan
I originally worked at a Japanese IT company for six and half years, doing a job that I didn’t really enjoy. I wanted to do something different with my life, something I was passionate about and that led me to this Kyojin business idea—to use traditional food as a doorway to share Irish culture with people here in Japan.
We opened Kyojin Stewhouse in February 2015. At our core, we sell authentic Irish soups, stews, freshly baked bread and mashed potatoes out of our small shop on the Togoshi Ginza market street. We also make Irish style sausages and cure our own bacon, which are now also sold through our online store.
The Kyojin Brand
In the mind of Japanese consumers, I would ultimately love to connect our Kyojin brand with Irish food and culture. While the Stewhouse was the first business initiative we launched under this brand, we also had plans to complement our brick and mortar business with imported Irish products and make them available for wholesale and retail. We launched Kyojin Imports on St. Patrick’s Weekend 2018 with two Irish beers: Belfast Lager and Maggies Leap IPA.
In fairness, we were very fortunate to have already taken several steps toward launching our online business. For example, a few years ago, we purchased a rapid chiller which is necessary to freeze our soups and stews before shipping. We also included online sales when applying for our alcohol retail and wholesale licenses. However, we still had a lot of work to do and at the beginning of this year had no plans to push forward with our online business just yet.
That quickly changed around mid-February. The large Irish festival in Yoyogi Park for St. Patrick’s Day was about to be canceled and sales at the stewhouse were starting to decrease slightly. It was strange for that time of year. I felt the writing was on the wall and decided we needed to act quickly to get our online business up and running as soon as possible. After six weeks of fairly exhaustive work, we launched the Kyojin Store on April 8, the same day a state of emergency was declared in Japan. Thankfully many of our customers supported our new venture, which kept us busy during that time.
This is not an ideal scenario, so the logical next step would be to consolidate our businesses into one larger location. We had been planning it for some time, but we now need to include a Kyojin Store showcase and reception counter into our business plan.
At the same time, I need to remind myself to be patient: we are still in the midst of a pandemic and I shouldn’t rush into anything. This virus will be with us for some time yet, I feel. On the whole, though, we’ve been very fortunate and I consider myself very lucky that we’re having a conversation about cautiously expanding the business and not how we survive what has been a crazy unpredictable year so far.
As a final note, if you’re reading this and happen to be an agent or building owner, we’d be happy to have a chat, particularly if you are located somewhere between Shinagawa and Meguro. We’d like to stay close to our current customer base. Feel free to get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Offer on Connect
Kyojin Store is offering 10% off all purchases over ¥4,500, also valid with existing offers. Check out their offer on Connect to get the promo code.