With almost 20 years under their belts as the owners of Lynn Valley’s Mr. Sushi, the Park family has opened their third restaurant and hope to have many more in the future.

From feeding family to feeding hundreds

When the Park family took over Mr. Sushi in 2006 it was a far cry from what it is today: a thriving business in an ill-fated strip mall. 

“When we first purchased the business back in 2006 it had a very humble beginning,” said Edward Park, CEO of Mr. Sushi. “It was so small that no more than three people could work in the kitchen. Sales were low. My father’s thought was if we didn’t make a lot of money, at least he would be making good food to feed his wife and two boys. We didn’t have the hope or vision we currently have.”

Last month Park left his 20-year career in health care to spend 100 percent of his time on the family business, just in time for Mr. Sushi to open its third branch in the Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood of Vancouver. They have a prominent spot at 2nd and Main Street. 

Park credits his father Chris’s knowledge and his brother’s customer service for their early success in saving the falling business.  

“We began to make things more efficient and we knew we needed to get to know our customers. Thank god my brother has a really good memory and likes to take care of customers. He remembered names and orders so we could really take care of our customers. We started putting their rolls and their orders on the menu – our regular customers helped us create our menu,” said Park, at the time he was a university student helping out when he could. “Lynn Valley was different in 2006 so almost all our customers were regulars. We have had little kids who grew up eating Mr. Sushi and are now married and bringing their own kids.”

Edward Park

Years later, some items have come and gone from the official menu but the original Lynn Valley restaurant still has a secret menu known to long-time Lynn Valley locals. 

“We have the Fire Chief Combo – the fire chief and the leaders at the fire hall would come almost every lunch and order the same things,” said Park. “So staff who have been with Mr. Sushi for a long time know the Lynn Valley Boys Combo, Lynn Valley Girls Combo, Argyle Combo – things like that.” 

Another insight bit of customer care and business savvy was to give customers a bonus bite. It was a tradition for more than 10 years to offer customers a free yam cone. 

“We weren’t really thinking about marketing but we want to make sure our customers left satisfied. It’s led to something interesting. The most popular roll at Lynn Valley is not a California roll or a Dynamite roll like at most sushi restaurants – it’s the yam roll – people love our yam roll.” 

Steady growth

From the small space at Lynn Valley Mall the Park family began to trust the lessons they had learned and think about expansion. The right opportunity to buy into a new development in Lonsdale led to the debut of Mr. Sushi Lonsdale in 2016. 

“It was a big leap. We partnered with the Business Development Bank of Canada and we were able to open Mr. Sushi Londsdale and seven years later we opened Mr. Sushi Main Street [Vancouver].”

But in those intervening years, like all small businesses, Mr. Sushi took several blows during the pandemic. Park says his experience in health care – specifically risk management gave the family confidence.

“We had made a smart decision, the family only wanted to expand if we owned the property and us being able to pay a mortgage instead of rent saved us during the pandemic,” he said. “We knew we must find an opportunity in this risk [the pandemic]. We invested in our online marketing and digital presence. We found ways to pivot and redefine who we are.”

Those decisions are paying off. The Mr. Sushi brand has captured a balance of aspirational eats and a warm welcoming space. It was also at that time Chris was looking at other opportunities – quality real estate for a restaurant. 

“We have approached Main Street like Starbucks and McDonald’s,” said Park. “We want locations to be owned by Mr. Sushi – like Mcdonald’s but easily replicated and owner-managed like Starbucks.”

The Park family hopes to have many more Mr. Sushi locations with the lessons learned from opening Main Street. From design to construction to technology they think they have developed a copy-and-paste model that will have them with future locations. 

“We have invested heavily in automation at Main Street,” he said. “We want to offer the same high-quality food with consistency at high volumes.”

They have mechanized much of the sushi-making process that will ensure if you order a roll for a table of one it will be the same as a catering order for 400. They are the first sushi restaurant to bring this type of production process to BC, said Park. 

“I took a call last week for an order there is no way we could have done without Main Street. It feels like there are more opportunities. My dad is visionary – this is all his idea.”

The heart is always Lynn Valley

But despite the outward push and vision, Park says his dad’s – and the entire family’s – heart will always be in Lynn Valley. Park has been a part of the Lynn Valley Services Society serving their board for years.  Even their logo was born here at the Lynn Valley Library while working with a friend who Park met during his time in the Canadian Navy many years ago. 

“We regret that we don’t have eat-in at Lynn Valley anymore. It’s too small to make it a worthwhile business but it’s my father’s pride. We miss that personal touch.”

He expects the Polygon development slated for the mall will give them two to three more years at that location. 

“We haven’t lost focus that we are doing what we are doing because of the customers in Lynn Valley and the great staff that support us. We are not leaving Lynn Valley. We don’t know what the future will look like but we want to be here and to give back to the community.”

With the family’s heart going strong in Lynn Valley, Park also says it’s the place to get their best dish.

“The dynamite roll in Lynn Valley is the best. Our Main Street and Lonsdale Dynamite rolls are good, but there is something about Lynn Valley – I think it’s the best in the world.”  

Looking for more?

There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

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