Fans of Trapper’s Sushi will soon have a new location to get their fix when the fifth store opens in Kent Station in early September.
Started by its namesake, Trapper O’Keefe, in Bonney Lake (originally known as Sushi Town), the sushi chain has grown by leaps and bounds in the past three years since the second location opened in Covington in April 2009.
When the spot of a former sushi restaurant opened up in Kent Station, explained Covington General Manager Jaysin Reyna, it seemed like an obvious step to expand though they weren’t looking there at the time.
“My brother, Trapper, found it,” Reyna said. “We got this opening and it was a perfect opportunity, great location.”
At the time the spot in Kent opened up they were scouting locations in Seattle but Reyna said his brother knows when to close a deal.
“For Trapper, it’s the opportunity,” Reyna said. “When there’s an opportunity for Trapper in a great location that’s going to do well, he has a great sense for that.”
Reyna, who like his brother learned how to make sushi as a teenager from their brother-in-law Eisuke Sato, said the new location in Kent which is 3,549 square feet, will be larger than the store in Covington, which measures 2,828 square feet.
It will have a full sushi bar, an outside patio seating area, a full bar and will be later than many of the other stores in Kent Station.
Reyna noted that in addition to drawing from their existing clientele, they anticipate drawing from the other businesses in the commercial development as well as the Regional Justice Center, Green River Community College campus at Kent Station, the movie theater and commuters as they step off the Sounder train just about a hundred feet from the restaurant’s door.
“We do have clientele from Kent and all over,” Reyna said. “We have customers who come here twice a week. We put our love into it.”
Since they got the keys to the Kent Station spot in July, workers have been gutting out the interior including removing the conveyor belt which was the centerpiece of the previous restaurant, which offered a different style of sushi.
But, it’s more than just the food that sets Trappers’ Sushi apart, Reyna said.
“What we do is we are a family-based restaurant, so, everything to us is family, including our customers,” he said. “We get to know our customers. It’s like ‘Cheers.’ We have this great intimacy of conversation and we get to know one another.”
It doesn’t hurt, though, that patrons love the food.
Patrons sitting at the sushi bar will rave to someone about the food if they notice their neighbor is not a regular. They offer opinions on their favorite roll or suggestions on other items to try like the squid salad.
Devoted customers talk about following O’Keeffe from the Muckleshoot Casino where he worked prior to starting his first restaurant in Bonney Lake to Covington and even bragging about how far they drive just to get a fix.
“We actually Americanized it,” Reyna said about the sushi. “We mixed it up from the way we were taught by our brother in law, Eisuke. We learned Osaka style from him, the art of sushi from him, so we mixed it with our own (style).”
Which results in a range of traditional ngiri such as tuna and salmon on sushi rice to hand rolls to the familiar California roll to things like the Covington roll which has tempura shrimp, cucumber, tempura asparagus and avocado inside with tuna on top along with a tangy dressing or the Bonney Lake, which is entirely dipped in batter and fried then sliced up before topped with spicy crab.
Staff are encouraged to come up with ideas for new rolls but it takes all the right ingredients, both figuratively and literally, to get one on the menu, Reyna said.
“Experience, you’ve got to have experience, you’ve got to love what you do,” he said. “You’ve got to love sushi, to have tasted all the fish to know what works together to make a great roll. And to have the pallet to know what makes a great roll.”
Reyna will hand over the reigns of the Covington store to his brother Jimmy while he takes over the new location in Kent. He’s confident in his brother because he has all the ingredients and worked in the Covington location since 2009.
The Covington store has more employees than the other three locations at present with 27 but Reyna expects to hire up to 35 for Kent and is looking for chefs, servers, waitresses, hostesses and bartenders.
If his brother has his way, Reyna said, someday there will be a total of 12 Trapper’s Sushi restaurants throughout the region.
He’s not sure where they will go next.
“We want to go to Seattle,” Reyna said. “We’ll go wherever there’s opportunity.”