Best of the VI winner four years running, seven years historically, and loved by J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, Enkai Sushi is doing everything right!
The story of Enkai is one of luck, skill, and perseverance. It’s inspiring to realize that Enkai just fell into the lap of new owner Steven Petsche. He struggled, at first, to run the whole show, but he learned how to operate the business and Enkai thrived.
It didn’t hurt that Steven grew up in the restaurant industry. His first job, at the age of 15, was as a dishwasher in the restaurant where his mother worked. Striking out on his own, Steven joined the staff at Mama Lena’s and worked his way up the ladder over a period of seven years. Here, his passion and respect for the industry grew.
In 2012, Steven moved from Lena, Illinois to the Virgin Islands and landed the job of his destiny at Enkai. A short six months later, the original owner left St. Thomas and passes the business on to his new and promising employee. Boom, at the age of 25, Steven became the operator of the famous but flagging sushi bar over night. Well, almost overnight. It took time to complete the legal transfer, but in July 2014, Steven became the official owner. Since then, he has continued to grow the business and grow personally along with it.
Considering how this began for Steven, it’s no surprise that he puts his employees first. He strives to create a workplace where the work is fun and new ideas are heard – both about the menu and efficiency.
“We have a small staff. I care about everyone that comes in and out of Enkai. I want everyone to learn and grow like I did. I have had former employees reach out to me to tell me how much they appreciated their time with Enkai and that it shaped who they are today. This makes me feel like I am doing what I’m supposed to be doing; that I have a purpose.”
“You know, if you are visiting the islands, I encourage you to strike up a conversation with some of the restaurant workers down here. A lot of them have a fascinating story – why they left home to move to the islands. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way, but many prefer it here. It’s interesting, to say the least.”
Since Steven took the helm, Enkai’s popularity and many awards prove that he has what it takes. The quirky restaurant with the weird location (tucked between seaside warehouses at Crown Bay) is sought out by hipsters, foodies, and locals alike.
“Enkai has evolved,” says Steven.
“While we still offer traditional items, we like to create rolls that nobody else is doing so you get an experience you can’t find anywhere else. I care about every detail – I want to know if the customers have fun, enjoyed the staff, the view, the atmosphere, feeding the huge fish waiting below the railing for scraps and, of course, the food and specialty craft cocktails. You know, we had a guest propose to his girlfriend here. He had the manager video tape it. That was cool. That memory will forever live at Enkai and I support things like that.”