Special Projects For 57

FAST40 2011

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Sushi rolls in the dough for local favorite Hissho Sushi bars and chefs are scattered across the country, but the company started in North Carolina. store, there's a good chance it's operated by Hissho. Customers include Winston-Salem-based Lowe's Food Stores Inc. and Salisbury-based Food Lion LLC. The company's 46,000-square-foot headquarters and regional distribution center handles its nonperish- able ingredients, including soy sauce and rice, while separate vendors deliver perishable foods directly to stores or cafes that have its chefs. S ushi bars now seem as common in grocery stores as deli counters, and that's due in part to Charlotte-based Hissho Sushi. As the popularity of the raw-fi sh rolls increased in America, so did the company's profi t, which rose about 40% between 2008 and 2010. Founded in 1998 by Burmese immigrant Philip Maung, the company operates both full-service sushi bars with a full-time chef and locations where fresh sushi is delivered daily. It landed its fi rst big contract, operating sushi bars in grocery stores in Minneapolis, in 2000. Subsequent growth happened mostly through word-of-mouth in the grocery industry, Marketing Director Jim Emmerson says. If there's a sushi bar in a North Carolina grocery In 2008, while the economy went downhill, things fell into place for Hissho Sushi, the business name of Lwin Family Co., Emmerson says. "We started showing people we were better than the competition. If you are running a good business, there's business to be had." It operates sushi bars in 28 states, generating $35 million of revenue in 2010. The company's goal is to reach the $50 million mark by the end of 2012. Some of its recent success is due to unexpected markets. Emmerson says its sushi has been wildly popular in small towns, where shoppers might have had limited prior exposure. Hissho also is testing the health-care industry at sushi bars it operates in cafeterias at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia and WakeMed Health & Hospitals in Raleigh. Two new sushi bars at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport have performed "beyond our wildest expectations," Emmerson says. This fall, it began selling sushi at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte during Carolina Panthers games. Universities could be next. The new markets won't all be successful, Emmerson says. "But we're pretty confi dent one or two will work out." Hissho Sushi 11949 Steele Creek Road, Charlotte, N.C. 28273 10 NORTH CAROLINA MID-MARKET FAST 40

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