HONOLULU (KHON2) — A family-run business serving up home cooking since the pandemic but that wasn’t without its challenges.

A look at their secret to success.

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Cooking for anyone other than family and friends was the last thing Michael and Lei-Anne Jones ever thought they’d be doing.

Michael said, “Quite the shock. Game changer for the better.”

Lei-Anne had a job in technology and Michael ran a health and wellness store operating out of the Hale Aloha marketplace.

Lei-Anne said, “He always wanted to have his own family business. He saw he did it, he quit his job, opened up the first store at Ohana Hale marketplace, and it did really well.”

So well Lei-Anne quit her job and they opened up a second store inside the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. Unfortunately, that store opened up a month before the pandemic hit.

Lei-Anne explained, “So that one hit us really hard. It was almost drastic like doing very well. Saved up for the second shop and then there were no events, no customers, no tourists coming.”

So they turned their small space at Ohana Hale Marketplace into a restaurant serving up a small number of bentos every day.

“We already had a store there. It was very low risk. You get a little bit risky when you have nothing to lose you get a little bit riskier,” Lei-Anne said. “We’re actually looking into a food truck, but the marketplace style is very cheap it within a month we said what’s our game plan?”

Turns out the game plan was Michael’s cooking. What used to be for his inner circle started attracting customers who fell in love with his authentic local style of Japanese cuisine.

Dishes they now serve up at their new location on Waialae Avenue. Named after their daughter.

Lei-Anne said, “So Nana Ai Katsu. Which means? Nana loves Katsu. Do you love Katsu? Yes. Ha ha.”

KHON asked: How do you like it when you see your name on the sign on the wall?
Nana responded with, “Nice, I feel happy.”

And more than just happy, Nana is beyond proud of what mom and dad have built.

Nana said, “They’re brave and caring and sweet no, they can do something they do it.”

Definitely brave, but not so much at the beginning.

Michael said, “A lot of nervousness to be honest. When you cook for your family and your mess up, it’s not a big deal if it’s burnt a little bit.”

But it didn’t take long for him to hit his groove. Starting with their classic ton-katsu bento and eventually expanding to six specialty dishes with one night’s daily special.

“Since we have local roots we love spam, we love spam katsu. I used to eat it at 7-Elleven as a kid and I loved it.”

“And slowly we got ideas from our employees, one who kept talking that takoyaki was his favorite item when he went to Japan, so I thought why don’t you try the katsu takoyaki see how it turns out turned out great surprisingly it’s one of our most popular items today.”

Looking ahead, they said their secret to success is simple.

“For us I think it’s do something you love include family life include family do it as a family business,” Lei-Anne said.

“It’s hard to believe it was something I made for my wife and my kids and some friends back in the day to see that people come from the mainland now or from overseas to a little hole-in-the-wall family restaurant. It’s surreal shocking still,” said Michael.

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Lei-Anne said, “We’ve had fun with it. It’s so different its so new for us just love what you do and be happy.”