Kobe Steak House of Japan started as one man’s dream of the American success story. Nearly 30 years ago Kumeo Komazaki, known to his many friends and customers as “Koma”, moved to the United States from his native Japan. He had trained as a chef in Japan at the Imperial Palace Hotel and although successful, he realized he had no opportunity to own a business in his native country.
Koma’s first chef experience in the United States was with the Benihana Corporation in New York City. He admired the business concept practiced by Benihana and the model for Kobe Steak House of Japan was envisioned. Koma had always been uncomfortable in New York because the population seemed unfriendly and the crime rate was concerning so he began a search for a new city in which to start his business. As luck is sometimes better than skill, he noticed the name of the city Wichita, Kansas on a box of beef delivered to Benihana and the rest of the story has been a part of Wichita history for the past quarter of a century.
The friendly bustling atmosphere of Wichita and Koma’s dedication to hard work combined to make KOBE a very popular dining destination. As this popularity grew he was able to open successful restaurants in St Louis, MO in 1991 and Omaha, NE in 1996.
In late 2001 Koma was contemplating retirement and contacted his accountant with the desire to sell the restaurants. His accountant contacted business acquaintances Jim Hamlin and Jim West to see if there was interest in the restaurants and after lengthy negotiations the purchase was completed in August 2002.The restaurants were incorporated separately and all shares were held by the holding company Kobe Management, Inc. The next three years contained a “vertical” learning curve both in the restaurant business and the Asian cultures, but it was very successful.
The vision of the company is to retain the excitement of the hibachi dining and to do for Japanese hibachi what P.F.Chang did for Chinese: make it upscale, accessible, and fun. Going forward Kobe Management, Inc. hopes to obtain this goal with new locations and operations in all present markets.