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.

Hotel Ketchum breathes new boutique life into former Bellemont Hotel

The Hotel Ketchum gives a new face to the old Bellemont Hotel property. Image courtesy of Hotel Ketchum.
The Hotel Ketchum gives a new face to the old Bellemont Hotel property. Image courtesy of Hotel Ketchum.

A new Hotel Ketchum is being crafted from an existing building.

Owners and brothers Michael and Aaron Brown have stripped the 1989 former Bellemont Hotel, in the north end of Ketchum, down to bare walls and floors. The new 58-room boutique Hotel Ketchum is expected to open Dec. 22.

“You name it, we touched it,” Michael Brown said. “The casements were old. The carpet was old. Everything was in disrepair. We put in new everything. We had to redo the pool, redo the spa. It needed a lot of work. It need a whole new identity.”

Even with a Dec. 22 opening, crews were still busily working inside the Hotel Ketchum the last week of November. Photo courtesy of Hotel Ketchum.
Even with a Dec. 22 opening, crews were still busily working inside the Hotel Ketchum the last week of November. Photo courtesy of Hotel Ketchum.

The Browns, owners of Colorado-based HayMax Capital, acquired the bankrupt Bellemont in a June 2016 foreclose sale for $4.45 million and invested $4 million in the renovation that started in summer. They also own the Tamarack Lodge in Ketchum and the Hotel Aspen and Molly Gibson Lodge, both in Aspen, Colo.

All four properties are independent boutique hotels.

“We want to be unique here,” Brown said. “I love the creative flexibility to be able to live outside what Marriott wants you to look like.”

The architect was Michael Doty Associates of Ketchum. The general contractor is Conrad Brothers.

The Hotel Ketchum design represents Sun Valley culture, he said.

“We wanted to get away from ‘This could be a hotel anywhere in Idaho or the U.S.,’” Brown said.

A large mural of two sheep by a local artist and titled “Lucky Ewe” adorns a public wall. More local art decorates all the guest rooms. Brown said the carpeting mimics a corduroy groomed ski run. Old potato sacks imprinted with Idaho towns decorate the lobby walls.

The Browns are adding elements the Bellevue never had: a coffee ship named Sheep Town Coffee (opening fall 2018) and serving breakfast, and a “gear garage” next to the lobby, where guests can store their outdoor gear or rent snowshoes and cruiser bikes. Brown is considering a dog wash stand for the gear garage.

The Hotel Ketchum lobby will double as a "hangout space." Image courtesy of Hotel Ketchum.
The Hotel Ketchum lobby will double as a “hangout space.” Image courtesy of Hotel Ketchum.

“We doubled the size of the lobby to create a hangout space, a place where you could mingle,” he said.

Also on the property is a separate 4,500-square-foot restaurant building, vacant for years, once home to The Rustic Moose, which moved across Ketchum and was renamed Moose Girls, ultimately relocating to Bend, Ore., in 2015.

“When we purchased the space, we weren’t sure what we wanted to do there,” Brown said. “A liquor license became available. We’re looking for a great operator. We’re talking to locals. We’re talking to folks from California.”

Hotel Ketchum retail

The Hotel Ketchum expects to open Dec. 22 at the north end of Ketchum. Photo courtesy of Hotel Ketchum.
The Hotel Ketchum expects to open Dec. 22 at the north end of Ketchum. Photo courtesy of Hotel Ketchum.

Hotel Ketchum also has storefronts. One tenant will be the fourth local shop for outdoors goods purveyor Sturtevants. Three other retail tenants have signed letters of intent, said Paul Kenny, broker at Paul Kenny & Matt Bogue Commercial Real Estate, the Hotel Ketchum’s leasing agent.

“The new owners have done such an amazing job of renovating the entire property that it is now the hot spot to locate a retail or restaurant business,” Kenny said. “Even before the spaces have been improved, we have had great success attracting tenants.”

The Hotel Ketchum opens one year after the Limelight Hotel Ketchum, the first new hotel for the city since 1993. The Auberge Resort also is now under construction across from the Limelight. Both are unbranded and independent, as is the Monarch Motel in Moscow, which is halfway through converting the 1950s Royal Motor Inn into a modern boutique hotel.

“(Hotel Ketchum) is the cornerstone of the continuing Sun Valley/Ketchum renaissance,” said Scott Fortner, executive director at Visit Sun Valley, the region’s visitors bureau. “You have a resort experience and a high-end downtown hotel experience. There’s a need for it, for sure.”