Timing is Everything
There’s an old adage that “timing is everything,” and this is perhaps no truer than in the restaurant business. Opening a restaurant is a difficult endeavor, with most upstart restaurants failing to last more than a year or so. To “make it” in this business and stand the test of time, it takes a superior product, keen business sense, and a little bit of luck. For Dean Shimonishi, his family-owned Sunnyside Restaurant in Wahiawa has been around for over forty-four years, and he doesn’t see any slowing down.
Opportunity and the Wrong Phone Number
“It’s kind of funny,” Dean quips, “since we’ve reopened, we were finally able to get our phone number sorted out on a couple of review sites, now people aren’t as confused.” Founded by Dean’s grandfather in 1977, Sunnyside was leased to its employees in the late nineties and, after a massive two-year renovation effort, “reopened” as a family run operation in the summer of 2020. Ironically, the previous operators started a restaurant just down the road under a very similar name. The combination proved confusing for many of Dean’s customers. “Sometimes customers would call the other restaurant, place an order with them, then come to our place to pick it up,” Dean chuckles. “It’s all good, whatever helps get people through the door.”
Come for the Pie, Stay for the Food
There is certainly a lot to keep people coming through the door for at Sunnyside these days. With plate lunches like chicken cutlet, and BBQ chicken, to hearty breakfast combinations and daily specials, there is indeed something for everyone to enjoy at Sunnyside. Perhaps most notably… the pie. “Yeah,” Dean starts slyly, “people seem to really enjoy our pie.” Enjoy indeed, Sunnyside’s pies have been a staple in the Wahiawa area for decades, and many stop by to pick up some of the delectable treats. “My wife and I still make the crust every morning,” Dean says, smiling. “She’s generally pretty busy as a realtor, so it’s nice to get to spend time together when we can.” The two use their family’s recipe to make the delightful, light and flakey crusts.
The Next Forty
If good timing is a prerequisite for starting a restaurant, scheduling a renovation and reopening amidst a worldwide pandemic certainly throws a wrench in things. “Reopening during Covid has proved challenging,” Dean explains, “we started to renovate way before all of the shutdowns started to happen. Slowly but surely we are starting to see an uptick in business.” Dean has relied heavily on word of mouth and review websites to get the word out about the reopening. “We’ve been successful with referrals and recommendations thus far,” Dean starts, “and while there’s many more options to help market our restaurant these days, we’ve always believed in focusing on the customer experience first, letting our food and service speak for itself.” If recent customer response and sentiment is any indicator, the Shimonishi’s can expect to spend the next forty years continuing to do what they love.
If you’re on the island of Oahu and are looking for some “ono grinds,” feel free to stop by Sunnyside Restaurant at 1017 Kilani Ave Wahiawa, HI 96786. You can also call to order at (808) 622-3663.