Amy’s on the Bay owner feels a need to repay community for her good fortune

Amy Igloi-Matsuno and her husband signed the papers to purchase their Port Orchard restaurant the first day they saw it. And they haven’t looked back since. - Charlie Bermant/Staff Photo
Amy Igloi-Matsuno and her husband signed the papers to purchase their Port Orchard restaurant the first day they saw it. And they haven’t looked back since.
— image credit: Charlie Bermant/Staff Photo

A popular theory among entrepreneurs is that rewards don’t come without risk.

It’s a philosophy in which Amy Igloi-Matsuno firmly believes.

In April 2006, Igloi-Matsuno and her husband, Grant Matsuno, moved quickly to purchase the former J.J.’s restaurant on Bay Street on the recommendation of her father, a real-estate developer.

Never mind that Igloi-Matsuno, 27, was a finance student at the University of Washington and neither she nor her husband had ever owned a restaurant before.

He worked as a corporate chef in Seattle and also was a sous chef at Anthony’s Home Port. She waited tables at Anthony’s and worked as a barista in college to pay her tuition.

Despite their lack of experience, the couple signed the papers to purchase J.J.’s the same night they visited the restaurant, which had closed.

The restaurant, which was renamed Amy’s On The Bay, reopened and offers a variety of dishes, including seafood, pasta, burgers, salads and steak.

“It seemed like it would be an adventure,” Igloi-Matsuno said. “We took a little bit of a risk and had fun with it.”

The couple, who married on Aug. 19, 2007, moved to Port Orchard from Seattle — Igloi-Matsuno plans to return to UW this fall to work on a general business degree; her goal is to graduate in 2009 — and quickly immersed themselves in the community.

Matsuno, 37, said he feels it’s important for both to become involved because of their backgrounds.

Both were adopted by Seattle-area couples at a young age. Matsuno was born in Seoul, South Korea, and Igloi-Matsuno believes she came from Hawaii.

“We’re both adopted, so I think we both feel that life is full of fortuitous circumstances,” she said. “We feel very, very blessed and indebted. It’s tough to live and not feel indebted.”

In addition to working with several charitable organizations, Igloi-Matsuno also is a member of the Bay Street Association and the vice president of the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce. Even though she works 60 to 65 hours a week at the restaurant, Igloi-Matsuno said the various organizations she’s involved with give her “a voice” in regard to the restaurant, in addition to the perspective she gains on the community.

“I’m always impressed with how much time and energy and the plans — long term and short term — they have with their business,” said Coreen Haydock Johnson, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. “She’s a very energetic person and someone who has a lot of vision for her age.”

The couple also assisted with the Friends of the Manchester Library salmon bake in June.

Carol Campbell, treasurer of the Friends of the Manchester Library, said they helped secure fish through a wholesaler and also provided expert assistance on how to cut and portion it.

Igloi-Matsuno said some of her employees have mentioned they might be interested in opening their own restaurant in the future, and she wants to show them the importance of community involvement. Amy’s On The Bay recently was recognized by the National Restaurant Association with its Restaurant Neighbor Award, which recognizes restaurants “that go above and beyond in community service and aims to inspire other restauranteurs to get or stay involved in their local communities,” according to a WRA news release.

“Once I invite you under my wing, I want to inspire you to do the right things,” Igloi-Matsuno said. “I think the kids respond to that.”

An avid reader who likes to study management principles and history, Igloi-Matsuno isn’t interested in discussing issues that generally elicit negative feedback, such as politics.

She has an “open-door policy” at work and encourages people to be proactive with positive solutions.

She cites her experience after graduating in 1999 from Burien’s Kennedy High School as the reason behind that perspective. Igloi-Matsuno was set to attend Western Washington University before she “got cold feet at the last minute.”

She spent time working with nonprofits, such as Childhaven, a facility for underprivileged children, and traveled to Cambodia, Myanmah and Thailand.

“I think sometimes when you don’t travel, you have tunnel vision,” Igloi-Matsuno said. “There are people dying to be Americans. In this nation, if you work hard, and with a little bit of luck, you’re going to make it.”

She said that perspective helped when the restaurant opened. Igloi-Matsuno has a soft-pitched voice and she said some people thought they were speaking with a child when they called.

She called it a challenging experience, but said the “passion and hard work” of the people at the restaurant helped them gain acceptance.

The experience has led her to consider other possibilities, such as joining the Port Orchard City Council, but for now, Igloi-Matsuno wants to concentrate on the restaurant and her other activities.

She said they might look into opening another restaurant in the area, but there aren’t any immediate plans.

Both said they analyze how the restaurant can perform better after work and Igloi-Matsuno said she wants it to be a strong operation if “I’m going to have my name behind something.”

Because they focus on different aspects of the restaurant, they aren’t around each other as often as some would imagine. And even when do, Matsuno said it isn’t a challenge.

“It’s great,” he said. “I can’t think of a better business partner. We never get tired of each other. There’s such a great sense of teamwork and looking out for each other that it makes it work well.”

Even after taking an entrepreneurial risk, both said they feel blessed to be successful during a challenging economic period.

“We just both feel privileged to being doing well,” Matsuno said. “During these tough economic times, it’s only by the grace of the community that we’re doing so well.”

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