The overwhelming impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the hospitality industry has been equally as devastating for restaurant purveyors across all categories. For some Japanese eateries in Southern California serving ramen, the downturn has directly affected one of its key suppliers: a San Diego-based company that specializes in making fresh ramen noodles.
Founded in 1986, Fuji Ramen operates out of a small factory in Chula Vista and for more than three decades, has worked exclusively with restaurants throughout San Diego, Orange County, and Los Angeles including Izakaya Naruto in Chula Vista, Hanaoka in National City, and Orochon and Hanaichi in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles.
Forced to sell their only commercial delivery van when their wholesale business took a dive as the pandemic raged on, owners Kanju and Hiroko Otawa are running the company with help from their family and some volunteers. Now in their 70s, the couple cares for an adult son who is blind and Kanju is getting dialysis treatment for renal failure while on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
For the first time since its inception, Fuji Ramen has shifted to selling their ramen noodles to the public. Over the summer, they started offering online orders via Facebook with contactless pick-up at central locations in Mira Mesa and Chula Vista. Other retail spots include the Mira Mesa and Otay Ranch farmer’s markets and The Fancy Fish in Mira Mesa. They have since expanded to add a drop-off in Irvine and just this month, began shipping nationwide. The handmade noodles are available in packs of 12 or 24 servings.
As the current spike in coronavirus cases threatens to hamper restaurants once again, the company says it plans to continue selling direct to consumers. Due to demand, Fuji Ramen is working to develop a vegan version of the noodles as well as a ramen broth base.