Haruki Kibe was born in March 1957 in Kolsi city, Shzuoka Japan. He grew up with his two older brothers and his parents. His father was a school principal and his mother managed a grocery store.
Haruki began working in his uncle’s restaurant in Karuizawa City, Nagano Japan while he finished cooking school. When Haruki was 25 years old, his uncle sent him to New York City to learn more about sushi making and the restaurant business.
He arrived in New York in 1984 and began working at a Japanese restaurant called White Flower in Manhattan. He worked there as a sushi chef for 2 years but didn’t like the big city so he moved to Cranston, Rhode Island in 1986. “One of my friends lived in Providence and he showed me around the area. I choose to come to Rhode Island because it is a nice and quiet place to start a family. I feel that Cranston is my home.” Haruki also enjoys the four seasons, which are similar to the weather in Japan, the ocean, and going to Newport.
New to Rhode Island, Haruki took a job as a dishwasher at an Italian restaurant on Park Avenue. He became friends with the owners who eventually sold him the business. He renovated it and in the winter of 1986 opened up his first restaurant called HARUKI.
“The community did not respond well to sushi, not everyone was familiar with sushi at the time. Back then, most of my customers were coming from out of town,” Haruki recalls. “Then, from word of mouth I built up more customers. It was a struggle for the first five years, but I have a passion to serve my customers good sushi and I am happy to have my own business.”
Haruki relocated his business to Oaklawn Avenue in Cranston and was happy to see most of his customers follow him to the new location. At the beginning he didn’t have time to enjoy other activities outside of work. “I was working 100 hours a week; it is like my second home. Instead of playing golf, I went to the fish market to get the next day’s business. I don’t enjoy life much outside, but I enjoy my life as a sushi chef where my customers are like my family.”
He agrees that many restaurant owners have a similar experience, especially immigrant entrepreneurs like him who create jobs for Rhode Islanders.
“Most factory workers are immigrants – these workers are the back bone of Rhode Island. The community should recognize them because without them there will not be as many jobs or workers.”
Haruki expanded the business to Providence with HARUKI EAST in Wayland Square and HARUKI EXPRESS on Waterman Street. His future goal is to expand HARUKI EXPRESS to other locations.
Haruki says that his customers, his family and the restaurant business give him inspiration. “My customers have inspired me to keep serving fresh quality sushi. It makes me happy to see them satisfied with my creation and motivates me to work harder. My wife is my big inspiration and keeps me motivated and provides balance in my life.”
Haruki’s family back in Japan also was very open-minded and supported him to pursue his dream. He tries to go back to Japan to visit them every 10 years, but can’t stay for too long because someone needs to manage the business. “I wish I could stay longer when I get there.”
With 3 locations and over 100 employees including 15 sushi chefs, Haruki spends most of his days managing the business rather than making sushi. “I rely on my staff to do a good job, because people notice the difference in good service.” He enjoys more time with his wife and 5 children- the oldest daughter, 24, a designer in New York to the youngest daughter that is 11 months old.
Haruki likes to give back to the community, as he feels Rhode Island gave him an opportunity to start his business. He gives back by making yearly donations to various places such as Zoobilee, Rhode Island Clinic, fire fighters, state troopers, and the Providence Performance Art Center, to name a few.
He advises others to pursue a job that you are passionate about and love doing. He currently resides in Smithfield.