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Poké restaurants gaining popularity in Idaho

Paddles Up Poké co-owner Dan Landucci also works the line. Paddles Up is opening its third shop in Ketchum in December. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Paddles Up Poké is on course to match founder Dan Landucci’s goal to open five shops in the business’s first three years.

Paddles Up Poké gained instant popularity upon its May 1, 2017 opening in downtown Boise and followed with a second shop at Eagle and McMillan roads in March.

Landucci and business partner Jordan Tapangco are poised to open their third store, also the first poké shop in Ketchum, in early December.

Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls are on Landucci’s radar, as are the eastern and southern portions of Boise.

Poké, a national rage for the past few years, is a Hawaiian specialty of bowls filled with raw fish, raw vegetables, raw everything and a variety of sauces, which at Paddles Up are crafted by Landucci, the restaurant’s co-owner and CEO.

So far the Treasure Valley has four poké-specific eateries: the two Paddles Up; Poké Bowl in Meridian, which opened up a couple weeks before the first Paddles Up; and Fish Poké Bar in Meridian, which opened later in 2017.

Paddles Up’s genesis stems from Landucci’s Boise State University business plan assignment from 10 years ago. Multiple Paddles Up were always in the game plan.

“I knew we had to move quick,” he said. “I knew we would get copycats.”

The Ketchum shop will be inside the Hotel Ketchum, which opened Dec. 22 after Colorado-based HayMax Capital refashioned the former Bellemont Hotel property.

“I’m personally excited for my own lunch option,” said Hotel Ketchum General Manager Shannon Allen, who has eaten a couple times at the Boise Paddles Up. “We really worked to bring in something unique.”

An old-school random conversation led Paddles Up to Ketchum. Hotel Ketchum co-owner Michael Brown was in downtown Boise for business and just happened to go to Paddles Up for lunch.

Brown and Landucci got to chatting – as Landucci does with customers – and later on Allen followed up with a phone call: Would Landucci be interested in expanding to Ketchum? Ketchum indeed was part of his business plan.

Before Landucci ever got around to scouting Ketchum for a location, Brown and Landucci had a deal. Paul Kenny, associate broker and principal at Paul Kenny & Matt Bogue Commercial Real Estate in Ketchum, handled the lease details.

“These guys are going to knock ‘em dead here in Ketchum, and what a great addition to Hotel Ketchum,” Kenny said.

Hotel Ketchum and Paddles Up both want to cater to visitors and locals. The hotel is located at the north edge of downtown and also the edge of a residential neighborhood.

“What we heard was a lot of restaurants cater to tourists,” Landucci said. “We want to be accessible to locals.”

Landucci stressed Paddles Up is open all day – very few Ketchum restaurants are open in mid-afternoon – and Paddles Up will be open during the off-season between summer and winter, which locals call the “slack.”

“Our whole goal here was to find a tenant that would add to the visitor experience and the local experience,” Allen said.

Even with the five-shops-in-three-years objective, Landucci initially had a goal of selling 75 poké bowls a day with just himself, Tapangco and a dishwasher running the shop. Quickly, traffic grew to 300 to 350 bowls a day and more people had to be hired.

Landucci typically works the line during lunch downtown and during dinner at McMillan. Landucci has been grooming employees to run the show, as he can’t also be in Ketchum… and eventually Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls or wherever else Paddles Up expands.

About Teya Vitu

Teya Vitu is an Idaho Business Review reporter, covering commercial real estate, construction, transportation and whatever else may intrigue him in the moment. Join me on Twitter at @IBR_TeyaVitu.