How did your first business go?
Over the following three and half years my business did not go so well and I lost everything so l arrived back in New Zealand in 2003 with only $300 to my name and rejoined my family who were living in Christchurch.
What did you do next?
A friend helped me start my first restaurant in the Cashel Plaza but I had no experience in the restaurant business. With not enough income coming in from the restaurant, my wife and I worked other jobs to bring enough money in to survive.
What other work did you do?
I did cleaning, taught mathematics as I had a major in mathematics, and I also made kimchi for Korean and Chinese supermarkets. Kimchi is a traditional Korean food made from cabbage and my wife and I produced four metric ton per month. That is 100 cabbages and we did these 5 – 6 days every week. At that time we were doing up to 18 - 20 hours per day just to survive. Below:
After four years we started making enough money to survive and got an opportunity to take over the Tokyo Samurai restaurant upstairs in the Triangle Centre, and this became my first Su Ra Restaurant.
What does Su Ra stand for?
Su Ru is Korean for ‘dining for the royalty’ or ‘dining for the king’
What did it take to get the new Restaurant up and going?
The landlords Cuth and Michael could not see how we could go from our small light meal restaurant to this bigger restaurant so l visited him everyday to convince him we could do it and eventually in 2008 and they agreed.
This became my chance to move from a small business to a big business but I did not find it difficult moving to a bigger business due to my previous work as marketing manager for a multi ten million dollars joint venture company.
When did you expand?
One year later I opened a Su Ra Sushi on the ground floor of the Forsyth Barr building and then the earthquakes hit and I lost everything again. It was more frustrating, however, I accepted that a good chance would be given to me again… one day’.
When did that chance come?
Michael my previous landlord called me and asked me to visit his office. He said, “I will give you a chance to open your business again” and this gave me the opportunity to start again and support my family.
Paul has since opened Sura Teppanyaki Restaurant
and Su Ra Sushi at Spitfire Square near the Airport, Su Ra Sushi and Donburi at Tower Junction, Su Ra Sushi on High and Hereford Streets and he has just opened Gogi (pronounced ‘Corgi’) Korean Barbecue & Karaoke Restaurant
on Hereford Street.
What do you like doing for leisure?
I am always at work otherwise it slips.
What do you credit your story of survival with?
The reason I could survive is because I had nothing… if I had something, then it would not be as easy to survive. There was nothing for me and the only thing left was my life, my real physical life. I realized then that it was for me to make a decision to live with family because that made me strong.
Really, really hard at the time but that was a very important experience for me, but I also do not want to have that experience again.
Paul and his wife’s story was told on an earthquake documentary called ‘The Moving
’ that screened at the New Zealand film festival in 2011.