Behind the Biz: Hapi Fish

Owner and sushi chef Justin Masunaga talks business with Patch.

The haunts and mom-and-pop shops in Encinitas are part of what gives this community its character. We all know and love our local favorites—but do you know the people behind them? Behind the Biz gives our local entrepreneurs a chance to introduce themselves, and tell us how business is doing in their own words.

This week meet Justin Masunaga, sushi chef and owner of .

1. Why did you choose to open your business in Encinitas?

Encinitas has a great small town, local vibe and has undergone a lot of economic development that has made business opportunities attractive in the coastal area. Year-round San Diego sunshine, good beaches, and great people also make Encinitas an ideal place to live and work.

2. What are some of the current challenges you face as a business owner?

We live in the Facebook generation and everything today is revolved around social media. Today, with Google, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. everyone has a venue to express an opinion. Maintaining continuity, brand control, identity, and reputation beyond the walls of the restaurant are the most difficult challenges. 

3. What distinguishes your business from others in the same industry?

HapiFish is Japanese-owned and has a Japanese head chef, which is uncommon in "fusion contemporary" restaurants. We offer a Japanese Omakase Kaiseki meal upon request, which not advertised, but known to many regulars. This is high-end, traditional Japanese cuisine is presented in courses and features our chef’s choice. The Omakase Kaiseki meal is done with old school technique and contemporary seasonal ingredients. We also have own brand of wine and beer. Our wine is produced by San Joaquin Wine Company and our beer is produced by Firestone Brewery.

HapiFish is also the first in Encinitas to attempt two different restaurant venues in one space. In late April we will launch Counter Culture, a counterpart to HapiFish. From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Counter Culture will serve artisan sandwiches, organic coffee, salads, fruit bowls, and beach bento boxes—and at 3 p.m. the restaurant will transition into the HapiFish menu. The idea is to serve up a different menu, but share the same local's beach vibe as HapiFish.  

4. What's the best business advice you've been given?

“Play your own game, not somebody else's.” There aren't enough hours in the day to worry about how someone else does things if you are constantly pushing yourself to achieve the next level of success. Control what you can control and let the rest of the world be.

5. What changes, if any, would you like to see in the local business community?

I am excited for the new changes to the 101 corridor expected to happen in the next few years. The Leucadia 101 Mainstreet Association and the city of Encinitas are undergoing plans to beautify and revitalize Coast Highway 101 with new streetscape, hardscape, and landscape features.  

sheila April 06, 2012 at 05:54 PM
I am hapi for his success... but, prior to opening the restaurant I had discussions with Justin regarding the parking impact on Melrose Ave. With his success we have become hostages in our own homes, particularly in the evenings during hapi hour. When we leave to take a short trip to the store, we return unable to park. There is also the issue of loud people and their car doors and stereos, and the occassional argument outside our house. As, I said, I had discussed these issues with Justin prior to the opening and he told me he understood the problem and would make his best effort to prevent the negative impacts his business has on the residents. I'm hoping he will be true to his word and discourage patrons/employees from parking on the residential street and implement valet parking.


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