Hideki Obayashi and Frank Nakano, co-owners of Azuma Japanese Restaurant and Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop, in front of Azuma, which reopened last Friday. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor

GARDENA — Owners Hideki Obayashi and Frank Nakano talked about reopening Azuma nearly two weeks after shutting down due to the shelter at home order amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The beloved Japanese restaurant is famous for its izakaya-style dishes as well as large combination plates of favorites such as grilled saba, tempura, teriyaki and sashimi. Nakano said that Azuma closed on March 16 after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all but essential businesses to close.

Azuma reopened last Friday and is now doing takeout orders. Obayashi and Nakano purchased the restaurant back in 2002, and also operate Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop.

Like other mom-and-pop places, they are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Business at both restaurants is down by 50 percent. The bowling alley, which has been operating since 1948, is closed. They are trying to not lay off any of their workers at Azuma or the coffee shop.

According to Obayashi, some employees have elected to stay home. They are currently doing a shift of four workers at Azuma.

Mari Inagaki ladles miso soup into takeout containers. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

The restaurant owners have filed for small business relief loans and both expressed frustration at the response by the Trump Administration to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as gratitude to the public for its support.

“The community has been really supportive, sharing photos on social media,” Obayashi said.

They also expressed gratitude to landlord Andrew Lee.

“He called and reached out to us and reduced our rent substantially. We’re very grateful,” Nakano said.

Javier Cervantez places take-out orders on the counter of Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop on Saturday. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

Azuma Japanese Restaurant is located at 16123 S. Western Ave., Gardena, (310) 532-8623. Hours are Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 11 a.m. until 9 p.m.

Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop, 15707 S. Vermont Ave., Gardena, (310) 532-0820. Open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Like other bowling alleys, Gardena Bowl remains closed. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)


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