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Port People: Meet Ryan and Kristen, Owners of Lolo Poke

There’s been a rise in healthy, fast casual dining over recent years with a number of new chains, new burgers, and even new types of food. Poke-centric restaurants are the hot new culinary craze, popping up nationwide, and even in our own backyard. Why? It’s GOOD! The traditional Hawaiian fish dish can be served in a number of different ways (even vegetarian!), so check out Lolo Poke’s menu for a taste of their offerings and learn more about Ryan and Kristen in our recent interview about their burgeoning business(es)!

Q: How long has Lolo Poke been open in Newburyport? How is business going for you? Do you have other locations?

A: We opened May 2019. And business has been amazing! We have had such a warm welcome and established so many regulars in a very short time, and we love meeting new people each day as well! We have another location in Beverly and another in buildout.

Q: Who are the owners? Tell me a bit about their backgrounds and how owning a restaurant came to fruition. 

A: Ryan and Kristen (husband and wife). Ryan graduated with honors from Suffolk University and worked at GE for eight years and Kristen is a veteran entrepreneur. Lolo Poke is our first venture into the food industry and our first business that we have opened together. We were fortunate enough to travel to Hawaii and while we were there, being the sushi enthusiasts we are, we had to try poke! From the first taste we were hooked and before we returned from our family vacation we had already begun market research and decided we were going to develop a business plan and bring this amazing food to our neck of the woods. 

Q: What is truly unique about your shop that is different from any other? 

A: Because we fell in love with not only the cuisine but Hawaii as a whole, we chose to keep our poke as authentic as possible by offering various marinated fish flavors all coated in our scratch made sauces. When you come to Lolo Poke, you are immersed in a casual, laid back vibe just like on the islands. Poke is meant to be eaten as a grab and go dish of simple hot rice and marinated cold, cubed fish. We also offer tons of fresh veggies to round out your meal- we call that our mainland twist. Do you have a signature dish? We have six signature dishes that we created but our Awa and Kai bowls are the two best sellers between both of our locations. They both showcase the unique flavors we offer. 

Q: What is your favorite part about owning your own business? 

A: Being self employed is hard work but it is rewarding on so many levels! We are so thankful for the amazing connections we have made with other professionals in the industry and customers who have really become friends. Small businesses are about serving the community and that is what makes it so special.

Q:  What is YOUR favorite bowl?

A: I (Kristen) have an off menu bowl that is quickly gaining popularity with our regulars! I make them the “owners bowl” which is what I would make for myself: white rice, Marinated Tuna and Salmon, crabstick, ALL the veggies (except jalapeño), avocado, soy pickles, spicy mayo, unagi, and crunchy onion! It’s a big hit and I especially love making it for first timers who are feeling adventurous.

Q: What is the most interesting aspect about your business?

A: Poke is such a versatile food and the possibilities are endless when it comes to adding new topping options. We are so fortunate to have so much flexibility and creative freedom when it comes to our menu. We never get bored because we are always thinking of creative ways to keep our customers happy! 

Q: What advice would you give to a young aspiring restaurateur? 

A: Be ready to work hard, stay creative, and welcome feedback graciously. 

Q: Are the owners from Newburyport or the surrounding area originally?

A: We are both originally from Lynn and moved to this area four years ago.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in Newburyport?

A: Eat and get cocktails! There are so many awesome restaurants in the area and we are so happy to be a part of this amazing downtown scene!

Q: Do you have any special talent(s)?

A: I love to paint and you can see some of my artwork showcased in the restaurant along with other local artists and photographers.

Q: What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of?

A: In our lives as a whole, we are most proud of our kids!  They are the real MVPs and will always be our “why.” Professionally, we are proud of how quickly we have grown from one small business to owning three, soon to be four profitable locations in two different industries at the age of 33. We are just getting started!

Q: Besides owning a business, how else are you involved in the community?

A: We enjoy giving back through food donations to local soup kitchens and farms, making monetary donations to local charities and fundraisers, and always supporting local businesses. We always do our best to show up and support local events and show our kids how important being part of a strong community is.

Q: What are the business’ goals for the future?

A: We plan to open multiple locations on a local level and bring poke to as many people as we can! We are focused on adding to our amazing team, creating jobs, and giving back to the community while maintaining the care and quality we deliver on a daily basis.

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