Kuramoto Diary #520 - 【NY Brewery】
At long last!!! Finally!!! …… The NY brewery is nearing completion. The main brewery building and rice milling facility are complete, with most of the fundamental equipment, including the bottling setup, already in place. The drainage facility, which is the last part of the project, is also adding its finishing touches. We are now in the process of setting up the partition walls, which could not be done until all the main equipment were installed.
Come to think of it, it has been a very long time. The topic first popped up in the winter of 2016. In January, the following month, our CEO conduced a site survey and decided to build a sake brewery on the East Coast, in the suburbs of New York City. This decision took form in the early spring of 2017.
We selected the site for the brewery, and by fall we had Mr. Jun Mitsui, a native of Iwakuni who studied at Yale after graduating from the University of Tokyo, to design the brewery. Mr. Mitsui has experience designing Haneda Airport’s international terminal and the headquarters of Coca-Cola Japan. Moreover, he is well versed in American affairs, therefore we asked Mr. Mitsui to design the brewery in collaboration with an American architectural firm to which he is partly registered, and the construction plan was underway.
However, the construction schedule has since been delayed again and again. The brewery which was supposed to be completed in the winter of 2019, has not been completed until now. In the meantime, even though I did not mean for it to be a “It’s on the way!” excuse commonly used by soba noodle deliveries, I have said to many people, “It will be finished soon. The brewery will be complete next spring.”
While the coronavirus pandemic was a major factor, the main cause was the fact that we had little understanding of U.S. laws and regulations, whereas the U.S. authorities knew nothing about making sake. They kept demanding what they considered “safe methods” for producing sake. To top it all off, the American architectural firm was insensitive to the situation, or rather to put it bluntly, brushed the matter off. So every time, with every step, we steadily stumbled along. That’s why the construction period had to be prolonged.
Thanks to that, the investment amount also went well over the top. The planned cost of 3 billion yen (27 million USD) for the land and building turned into 8 billion yen (72 million USD) [with the current exchange rate, I bet it’s more than 10 billion yen (74 million USD)]. The construction cost was roughly 3 times its original estimate (sobs). If it were the president of listed company, he would have been held accountable and fired by the shareholders.
In the meantime, I have been questioning myself whether I am in the state of “failure by holding on to sunk costs; in other words, not being able to stop a venture even though it is headed towards failure, all because the money invested to date will go to waste otherwise”. One such example would be the Battle of Imphal fought by the Japanese Army during WWII.
Since DASSAI is funded on the sales of DASSAI sake, I also found myself asking, “Am I really fulfilling my responsibility as a business owner to our customers? Will this investment benefit our customers in the long run?” I spent several years mulling over these questions.
Thankfully, the only thing that kept me from thinking negatively during those years was the increase in our sales. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the targeted amount of sales doubled thanks to the increase in overseas sales.
As such, I think I can kick off to a good start. I will be in the States in late January next year and I plan to stick around at the brewery until early May. During that time, I intend to see to it that the production in the NY brewery starts and stabilizes at the very least. Well, either way I will be living back and forth between Japan and the U.S. for a year.
But regardless of my mighty words, this is the core of my stress. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I can’t speak English. Also, the direction of traffic is the opposite of Japan’s. Will I be okay? What if I accidently drive on the wrong side on the highway like some elderly people? The list of my worries goes on and on.
However, when I think about my staff who are stationed there to produce DASSAI Blue, who am I to say such things? Of course, it is my (and the current CEO’s) responsibility to bring them up until I can realize for myself that “I’m glad I invested the profits entrusted by our customers in this NY sake brewery.”
I am scared, but I am going. Well, I will certainly make several uncool mistakes as usual, so go ahead and laugh.
Lastly …… I am still …… “in the middle of a dream” ……
…… As I am writing this, a staff member already positioned in the States reported that the construction company has mistakenly applied non-water-resistant material on the walls of the drainage facility. The company is responsible for replacing it ASAP, but regardless how fast they do it, a 3 to 7-week delay is to be expected.
NOT AGAIN!! …… I am not in dream; but still in a “trance” (sobs)…… Boo-hoo-hoo (bursts into tears).
★EOY Representative for 2022
The EOY Japan representative for 2022 has been decided. In June last year, I had the honor to represent Japan to Monaco. This year’s representative is Mr. Hoshino of Hoshino Resorts. In the top selection interview, he boldly declared, “I am going to win as the top in the world!” I believed in my own optimism that I am in a good spot, however unfortunately, I did not win the first place. I truly hope he takes it. In fact, Europe and the U.S. are by far most formidable, and Japan has yet to have an entrepreneur who has become the world’s number one.
DASSAI is planning to hold a SUSHI and SAKE ‘DASSAI Tasting Party’ in Monaco during the Convention again this year. We need to provide lateral support so that we don’t get in the way. We are discussing internally to find a solution.
★Reading by the Kuramoto
I am reading ‘After Steve: How Apple Became a Trillion-Dollar Company and Lost Its Soul’; a book on the growth of Apple after the passing of Steve Jobs. As you can tell, I am very curious. Next is ‘Conquering Cancer, Regenerating Longevity, and Strengthening Immunity in the Exosome Era’. I found this in a book ad column in the Nikkei newspaper. It is a serious book, not one of those common, bestselling unreliable health and wellness books.