GreenStar Food Co-Op opened its new location at 770 Cascadilla St. in May 2020. The flagship store boasts an expanded selection of prepared foods with an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan options. This extends to even the sushi bar, where regular shoppers may notice both a change in the menu and a new name – what was once Sushi with Gusto is now Midori Sushi.
Midori Sushi is an independent business owned by the Myint family, who has been making sushi for GreenStar since 2014. The family first approached the co-op’s management about making this change two years ago. The move to a new space presented them with an opportunity to finally launch their own brand, so the two businesses transitioned in tandem.
Ye Myint has been a sushi chef for 16 years. He grew up in Burma, but it was during his four years living and working in Japan that he developed an interest in the culture and cuisine.
In 2003, he and his family moved to the United States in pursuit of new job opportunities, and it was stateside that he found training as a sushi chef. After working for other sushi bars and developing his skills, in 2007, Myint started his first business – a franchise of Sushi with Gusto – in Greenville, South Carolina. The business was successful, and in 2011, he had a choice: the company wanted to expand, so he could either take his franchise rights to Miami, Florida, or Ithaca, New York.
Ithaca turned out to be the strategic choice, and Ye Myint’s sushi was soon sold in every dining hall at Cornell University, at P&C Fresh at East Hill Plaza and at GreenStar. Scaling the business to this degree required a lot of attention, so it was natural that the rest of his family would eventually become involved.
Tin Tin Aye, his wife, is also a sushi chef for their sushi bar, but it didn’t stop there.
“When I was bored, I’d go help out with little side jobs,” recalled Ye’s daughter Haythi Myint. “I’ve been learning to make sushi since high school.”
Haythi, now 20 years old, is attending Clarkson University and pursuing a degree in engineering and management. Her older brother Moe Khant, age 26, lives in Virginia.
“They are very helpful because we have a lot to take care of,” Ye Myint said of his children.
Both are still very engaged, with Moe Khant offering remote technical assistance and Haythi managing inventory and ordering supplies.
“Within our family, we’re always connected with the sushi business,” Haythi said. “So, we’re always helping out my dad. Whatever he wants to do, however he wants to grow the business we’re always there to help out. We’re the brains of the business and he’s the hands – making sushi!”
A few years ago, Ye Myint decided to scale back since the number of accounts had become difficult to handle. He stopped his work with Cornell and instead focused entirely on his P&C Fresh and Greenstar locations. The Sushi With Gusto franchise offered Ye a variety of rolls, and he could choose to prepare and sell whichever had the highest demand.
Over time, it became clear that GreenStar’s shoppers were looking for rolls that did not exist in the franchise. While the family still offers Sushi With Gusto rolls at P&C Fresh, the reduced workload allowed them to begin planning a unique endeavor for GreenStar customers: Midori Sushi.
“Midori means ‘green’ in Japanese,” explained Haythi Myint, “so it fits perfectly with GreenStar.”
However, the name is not just cute; it’s symbolic.
“We changed most of our products so it’s all natural. Our wasabi ginger is all natural – there’s no food coloring or artificial flavors," Haythi Myint said.
They also avoid preservatives and opt for fresh ingredients whenever possible.
GreenStar’s management is excited about the new direction.
“They’re really a great family to work with and they’re open to doing whatever our customers are looking for here,” said Director of Operations Chad Smith. “One benefit [of Midori] to our members is that some of our customers want some different things: they want brown rice instead of white rice, for example. So, it gives us more of a direct line.”
Since they no longer need to adhere to franchise requirements, they can now make adjustments more quickly.
“If he comes up with a new sushi roll that he wants to put in the menu we just quickly do it,” Haythi Myint explained. “Our sushi bar now is more colorful. It's more visually friendly. [For example,] we have new containers with our vegetarian rainbow roll. It’s super colorful: mango, bell pepper, avocado, and all different types of veggies. When you eat it you just get a pop a flavor in your mouth!”
Ye Myint was excited about the addition of the spicy inari – a fried tofu bean pouch filled with seasoned sushi rice and finished with toppings from shrimp to avocado.
To help customers become more familiar with their menu, Haythi will be posting pictures and descriptions of their rolls on Instagram @midori_ithaca.
This flexibility will also allow them to be more creative with product families. In the future, they’re hoping to be able to do made-to-order sushi, as well as pre-ordered party trays, and a variety of chef’s specialty rolls.
Unfortunately, due to the impact of the pandemic on shopping habits, the daily sales are about half of what they had projected, which has caused them to delay the introduction of these new ideas.
In the meantime, Haythi and Ye hope that customers will come visit Midori’s sushi bar for a meal to go and try something different than what they’re used to.
“Our rolls are made fresh every day. It’s very price friendly. People can come and grab quick to-go for lunch or dinner,” Haythi Myint said.
Midori’s sushi bar is located in the prepared foods section of the new store, just past the fresh produce and across from the cheese case.
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