Joseph Lee and his restaurant, Shogun a hibachi, and sushi restaurant, has had one heck of a journey. Shogun first made its appearance in the Spokane Valley near Sprague and Evergreen back in 1992. After 20 years working for Korean Air, Lee wanted to open his own business. So, in 2004 he bought Shogun and started a new journey as a restaurant owner. Shortly after Lee took over Shogun, he moved the restaurant to the east end of 3rd street in Spokane but in April of 2018, a terrible fire destroyed the restaurant. Nearly a year after the tragedy, Lee found the restaurant a new home back in the Spokane Valley at 20 N Raymond Road.
“The new location is a lot bigger than the downtown one. There’s more space, more parking, and we have a patio,” Lee said. “It’s a much better location and I like the Sprague and University area.”
Before Shogun even had their grand re-opening, Lee said he had so many customers excited to see Shogun open again. They were making reservations weeks in advance of the re-opening. He said many people were also really excited for the restaurant to be back in the Spokane Valley again.
Not even a year after the re-opening of the new Spokane Valley location, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the restaurant industry. Washington State phased guidelines varied from take-out/curbside pick-up only, to outdoor dining only, to different capacity levels for indoor dining.
“Our customers come in groups for dining,” Lee said. “With the Washington State guidance for indoor dining, we couldn’t accept big groups. We were struggling to remain open, so we tried opening a drive-thru, but our menu is not suitable for a quick drive-thru. I did my best to survive.”
Lee said he was receiving a lot of encouraging remarks and messages from his customers which helped him keep going.
“My main focus was survival,” Lee said. “This is the time for the revival of Shogun.”
Many restaurants and businesses had to get creative in finding ways to draw in customers during this difficult time. Luckily, federal and state grants and funding opportunities helped a lot of these businesses stay afloat.
The Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce had the honor of allocating grants to our local restaurants as the administrator of the Spokane Valley Cares Grant Program(s) and the Spokane County Hospitality Relief Grant Program. Both programs were funded using Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds provided by the U.S. Treasury Department. The grants could be used to pay for business expenses incurred due to COVID-19. Shogun was fortunate to be selected as a recipient of a grant.
“The grant programs are why we are surviving now,” Lee said. “I really appreciate how much they focused on the small businesses like mine. Without the grant programs and support, we wouldn’t have survived.”
The Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce has also been working with local government officials to advocate for our local small businesses to remain open and communicate with the membership on any additional grant or funding opportunities that become available. And of course, continuing to promote supporting local business.
“Business is gradually picking up,” Lee said. “We are currently working on a garden and patio for outside dining during the summer. We are also going to do some cooking classes.”
After a difficult couple of years, things are starting to look up for Shogun. With restrictions lessening, more people are dining out. The restaurant industry is starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.