The ideas for the Umami Shop developed over time between siblings and friends while all were living abroad as young professionals working in the fast paced corporate world. Although their work histories were diverse, they all agreed they were good at one thing – food; they all loved food! But they wanted the concept to be different; to challenge the norm, to be original and eventually in 2009 the UMAMI Shop concept was first born in Chalon-sur Saône, France. And then in 2013 Umami Shop Canada, in Lethbridge, AB.
“Everybody eats”, states co-owner Patricia Luu as she described the thought process around the business concepts. “We grew up with organic, natural food that we cooked for ourselves. Our parents owned the Asian Supermarket in North Lethbridge and they ensured we knew how to cook, to understand ingredients and mostly the importance of freshness and that is what we bring to UMAMI Shop.”
Umami is used to describe food that is “delicious” and was discovered by a Japanese professor, explains Patricia. “It expresses the deliciousness of food; the pairing of food to please the palette.” “We focus on fresh healthy products. We broke the global norm, and placed our kitchen at the front of the store. The Chef prepares the food; show cases the ingredients while the client watches. It is completely transparent, open and visual,” explains Patricia. The menu incorporates local ingredients, the customer observes, tries the flavours and can buy the ingredients at the store and then can go home to recreate, to play.”
“Our mission is to offer our customers a world food experience that supports our philosophy of eat, play, and laugh. Together.” At UMAMI Shop the happiness is bringing people together to enjoy food.
The Umami Shop offers a lunchtime menu, a bakery, a deli, fresh local produce, a global grocery boutique, catering, as well as cooking classes in the evening. The business caters to fresh food, prepared daily. There are over 6,000 products in the shop with a diverse ethnic variety.
The three partners of UMAMI Shop, Patricia Luu, Alex Luu and Sven Roeder bring their own unique experiences to the business and the group has learned to leverage their skills to complement the success of the commercial adventure. The opportunity arose to work with Community Futures and the business partners chose to take it. Patricia stated “Community Futures took us seriously, they believed in us and helped us with the perspective of local business. The business sessions help us understand the process of financially starting our business and the people were easy to work with.”
Umami Shop Canada employs a staff of ten. “Our crew is amazing” beams Patricia. “They know all aspects of the business and are motivated by the everyday activity.” Everyone believes in eating fresh, being healthy, understanding food and educating others about the food products in the shop. “At first, one of our biggest business challenges was the hiring, but once we were open, people came to us. They loved the new concept and wanted to be part of it.”
Patricia’s advice to young entrepreneurs is to seek and understand the opportunities in the community and take advantage of them for you never know where they may lead you. “Then duplicate yourself” emphasizes Patricia. “Share what you learned and success comes back in folds. It is about community and bringing people together.”
UMAMI Shop creates a space to eat, play and laugh while you enjoy fresh food, wonderful aromas and even a café latte if that is what your palate desires.
A new concept, new experiences, new adventures combine to make a savory taste of success by three young entrepreneurs doing what they love.
Patricia Luu, Alex Luu and Sven Roeder
814-4 Ave South