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Meet Jason McVearry of Poke-Poke in Venice Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jason McVearry.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Jason. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Poke-Poke is the perfect confluence of timing, some inspired food-smithing and a married couple dedicated to bringing awesome pole to the masses.

I lived in Hawaii for five years, working remotely for a company based in LA which was an AWESOME part of life. I basically lived on Poke, beer, and surfing. When I finally decided to move back to LA to get more serious about my job, I met Trish, my wife, and soon thereafter took Trish to Hawaii to introduce her to my friends and life on the islands.

It was Trish who hit on the idea on the way home casually posing the question: “Why aren’t there any poke places in LA? We should open a Poke shop.” And that was that. I started developing recipes and Trish started looking for space. We found our little window and opened doors November 5th (ish).. about 5-6 months after our 1st trip to Hawaii. Since our launch, the poke trend took off on the west side and beyond.

We’re happy to be the primary inspiration for the trend but are a little disheartened by the assembly line Poke concept people are executing… We developed and continue to develop unique recipes and train people to make those recipes.. then you can augment those dishes with ‘add-ins’. the assembly line inherits no risk.. but I suppose it’s efficient. We opened our 2nd location in Austin 4 months ago, and look forward to opening our 3rd shop (with a twist of traditional Poke) by February.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
We had modest expectations.. so the first time we hit a $100 day, we celebrated with Mai Tais at the Canal Club.. a tradition we uphold when we’re both in LA together at the shop 🙂

We hit a fish shortage that quadrupled the fish price.. meaning every dish we sold, we lost money. like a lot of money. that was rough. We’ve been through the normal growing pains going through management and process issues… and working in a shared kitchen is always going to be a specific challenge trying to keep your landlord and business neighbors happy.

Opening in Austin cost 3x’s what we budgeted and took 2x as long, but it’s been awesome so that’s exciting.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Poke-Poke story. Tell us more about the business.
Poke-Poke was the first poke restaurant on the west coast to make poke on a made-to-order basis as opposed to serving pre-made/marinated poke by the pound.. like they do in Hawaii. Our business model was the first of it’s kind and maintains a unique approach in this currently crowded Poke market.

At Poke-Poke, we develop recipes based on favors from Hawaii and offer add-ins, which we mix into each individual bowl we make… We believe this makes Poke-Poke the tastiest, richest Poke product on the market. It’s a lot of work, but we refuse to give into the assemble-your-own fish bowl trend 🙂

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
Luck and timing played a huge role in our early success.. along with a LOT of hard work and a creative approach to the market and our operation.

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