GREENFIELD — A new sign and new name will soon greet customers at Greenfield’s Haru Hana Hibachi Steakhouse, but owner Li Liu said no dramatic changes are in the offing, only improvements.
Haru Hana, which opened its doors in the Brandywine Plaza in 2010, will carry Liu’s “Wasabi” brand, after her Wasabi on 82nd restaurant that has built a loyal following in Indianapolis over the last five years.
Liu purchased Haru Hana from owner Ndu Li on Jan. 1.
She plans to continue and expand the restaurant’s hibachi area, much to the satisfaction of longtime Haru Hana customers, she says, and grow the sushi menu by incorporating specials and offerings from her Indianapolis store.
In addition to broadening her sushi fare, Liu said she will also expand into adjoining space and relocate the current sushi bar from the rear of the restaurant to its own section.
“With hibachi there is lots of fun, lots of noise, but sushi customers are different,” Liu said. “They enjoy quiet, talking and meeting.”
Though the layout will change, the faces customers have grown to know will remain, Liu said.
“I have great employees. They do a great job.”
Longtime Haru Hana manager Steve Lin will continue greeting customers under the new banner.
“He knows all the customers and people like him,” Liu said.
High-chef Alex Wang and sushi chef Henry Winarby will also stay on the restaurant’s roster.
“I want to keep all the employees, bring the quality of Wasabi (on 82nd) here and make it special,” Liu said.
To boost business, Liu plans to roll out nightly promotional specials, a low-priced luncheon menu aimed at the business lunch crowd and explore “lunch box” deliveries locally.
She said she understands building business will be hard work, but that’s not been a real issue for Liu in the past.
In 1998, Liu, the daughter of a high-ranking army officer, left China and a successful career as a journalist to start a new life in America.
On her arrival to the West, the former television and print journalist with a stable government job began babysitting and bagging orders in restaurants – primarily because she spoke virtually no English.
“I knew two things when I came here, Liu said. “‘How are you’ and ‘bye-bye.’
“My customers began teaching me English, saying, ‘Look, Li, this is a truck; this is a yellow car,’ and then I started learning English.”
The lessons took, and as she was learning the business from the ground up she was also making plans to move into management.
Her first foray into restaurant ownership was a short-lived partnership in a Muncie Japanese restaurant that lasted only four months.
But in July 2008, Liu opened Wasabi on 82nd, which continues to thrive and draw customers from all over the state.
“We have customers drive from over two hours away,” said manager Lin.
Lui also owns a Florida location in Boca Raton.
Though Liu said food and operational expenses have increased by 30 percent over the last year, she wants to hold prices at the Greenfield locaton steady.
“I just want to give people good food and have people enjoy,” she said.
If the Greenfield Wasabi achieves success similar to her Indianapolis location, Liu said she will add five or six more wait staff, but until that time comes, it’s just a matter of keeping up with the pace.
“I never stop,” Liu said. “Never.”