Live and learn. Gustavo Martínez went to ask for a job at a restaurant in downtown Santa Rosa. He was rejected. Little did he know that this same place would appear in his life again, this time in a significant way. When he returned years later he was not looking for a job in the kitchen, but rather to acquire the business, now called Paradise Sushi.
“I didn’t remember it, but after the sale negotiations, I realized it was the same place that hadn’t given me a job years before,” remembered Martínez, 42, owner and founder of Paradise Sushi, a local food chain with a specialty in Japanese cuisine.
His opened his first Paradise Sushi location in Petaluma, in 2012. He sold everything he had: a truck, land in Mexico and other possessions. He gathered his savings and opened his restaurant to the public. The first four months were difficult, there were no profits. He decided, if it came to the 6 month mark and the business had not gained traction, he would pass it on.
But that’s not what happened: “We realized that clients started to come back. Sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly, and with more people. After a year, we were already very busy, thank God. In that year I recovered what I had invested”, recounted Martínez at the fourth branch of Paradise Sushi, recently opened in 2018, east of Santa Rosa.
Martínez has opened a new branch every two years. Following the first location in Petaluma, he opened one in Rohnert Park, and two in Santa Rosa —one downtown on 4th Street, and the most recent one near Spring Lake.
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It’s been a long journey for Martínez. He arrived to Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in 1996, from a town in the State of Mexico. He worked at a sushi restaurant for 14 years, where he learned everything about Asian cuisine. He began as a dishwasher and worked his way up to head chef under the guidance of a Japanese mentor, Hiroshi Hayakawa. That restaurant, Hiro Sushi, was only open for dinner, so Martínez worked in construction during the day.
“He taught me the basics of sushi, little by little I began moving up,” said Martínez. “When I first arrived, I didn’t even know that sushi existed,” he admitted. Now he is one of the few Mexican owners of sushi restaurants in California, according to his suppliers.
Work began to diminish in Lake Tahoe and Martínez decided to move to Sonoma County, where his brothers lived. During that time, he visited restaurants that served sushi, and realized that he could prepare better dishes than the ones he was tasting. He applied to various establishments, where he was rejected from some, and hired at others.
During that time, “I came to have dinner with my brothers”, said Martínez. “Right here?” I asked. “Here, right here”, he assured me, pointing to the table with his index finger. “Afterwards, I asked the owner for work. He interviewed me, he put me on the line to test, he asked me to make him sushi and then hired me. The next day I began working here, when it was Haikuni.”
One day he made the decision to open his own business, for which he sought advice from the Economic Development Board of Sonoma County, where he was guided in his business venture.
He ended up acquiring that location of Haikuni in July of 2018, to open his fourth branch, where they serve everything from the traditional nigiri, to sushi with ceviche and other more elaborate rolls, under the model of “all-you-can-eat”.
His business dreams seem endless. In 2019, Martínez wants to launch —along with his brothers, who are also his business partners— his own beer line, and even salad dressings.
“We are trying to innovate. And we are trying to work with people who are more experienced than us, who can help us in each field”, said Martínez.
For more information and a complete menu, visit their website at: paradisesushi.net.
Translated to English by La Prensa Sonoma’s intern Mayra Lopez.
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