Well-known Colorado staple Hapa Sushi Grill & Sake Bar recently moved their business banking relationship to FirstBank. Since their founding, they’ve expanded to four locations across Denver Metro and Boulder, offering a fusion between Japanese and Hawaiian cuisine. And, they launched Motomaki, a fast-casual sushi burrito and bowl restaurant with three locations in Colorado.

We sat down with the founder and current owner of Hapa Sushi, Mark Van Grack, to discuss his success and why it’s crucial to establish a financial relationship to effectively manage his business and ensure its long-term growth.

Briefly describe your business.

Hapa Sushi is a non-traditional sushi restaurant that opened in 1999. The business started from a perceived need I wanted to fill. I came to Boulder from Washington, DC, where there was great food and service, which Boulder needed to improve at the time. We named the restaurant “Hapa” because it means a blend of cultures and raw and cooked food. We currently have four locations in Denver and Boulder.

What is your proudest achievement as a business owner or leader? 

My proudest achievement was leading Hapa through the pandemic. That was a very difficult and sad time as we had to lay off 80% of our staff. We had to completely change how we operated and transition from a less than 10% delivery or takeout to 100% in 48 hours. We also had difficulty sourcing products, paper goods and takeout containers. However, three years later, we’ve grown stronger as a company, and our staff is currently at 100%.

What do you think are the most important skills/considerations for running a successful business? What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs?

The most important skill for running a successful business is being good with people. I’ve always operated under the mantra, “I treat our staff the way I want to be treated and our guests the way I expect to be treated.” As for aspiring entrepreneurs, I would say the key to success is to work hard. It also helps to have a little luck and be in the right place at the right time.

Why did you choose FirstBank as your banking partner?

I chose FirstBank because they were willing to accommodate my needs and wants as a business owner. We deal with a significant amount of transactions, from paying suppliers to receiving payments from customers to managing payroll. We use FirstBank’s Internet Cash Management portal and our other Treasury Management tools to streamline our accounts*. Their staff has been very accommodating and helpful in every way. FirstBank is also helping us finance the build-out of our newest location in Boulder, which should open before year-end.

What do you hope to see the business accomplish in the next several years?

We hope to continue to grow our two restaurant concepts, Hapa Sushi and Motomaki.

*FirstBank Business Accounts, Treasury Management Solutions, and Merchant Services are subject to approval. Fees and restrictions may apply.

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