We had the good fortune of connecting with Louie and Regan Colburn and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Louie and Regan, how do you think about risk?
We believe that the more you have to put out on the line, the more rewarding the payoff can be. We only have so much energy to expend, and in order to realize any worthy gains, there needs to be an unwavering focus on your project. In our case, it meant quitting our jobs and risking our livelihood in order to create room to focus on starting and running our own business. We lost our sources of income by quitting our jobs at the time in order to birth a business from scratch, with no investors. Yes, to do what we did was risky, and no amount of business planning can eliminate the cost of taking the risk. But, we believed that in order for our venture to flourish, we needed to be fully committed and focused. This is almost as to say to the universe, “Hey, we are serious about doing this!” When we stopped thinking and changed gears into DOING, many things started to line up and solutions appeared. We started small, as a takeout window operating five days a week, and we did not follow a strict business plan. Instead, we focused on what we could control; which was creating a menu that was manageable and reflected something unique, and creating processes that were able to be replicated every day. Taking the risk to be different was also beneficial to us too, as there were no Poke businesses and not too many Hawaiian offerings. However, this was not just a random endeavor; I was very much passionate about serving the types of food I grew up eating on Oahu. By exposing ourselves to risks, we certainly found ourselves out of our comfort zones and facing much uncertainty. In the beginning, those risks felt very scary, but over time, we realized that there is a solution for every problem. Only by taking these risks, Ohana Island Kitchen was born and continues on; feeding the many happy guests who come through our doors.
What should our readers know about your business?
Aloha! We are Louie and Regan Colburn. We started Ohana Island Kitchen in June 2016 out of a take-out window in LoHi. We are a veteran-owned and family-operated business. Louie was born in Japan and grew up in Hawaii from age four. Regan is a Colorado Springs native. We exercise meticulous care in the preparation of our food. Our food is made from scratch each day; true to the flavors of Louie’s Hawaiian upbringing. What started as a small operation quickly gained traction, and we luckily found our own storefront after five months in our takeout window. Our menu is small because it is an extension of our original take-out window menu—constrained by the space limitations of a shared kitchen as a pop-up concept. The menu is intentionally small because it allows us to follow our philosophy of “stick to what you do well, and do it well each time.” With a small menu, we are able to consistently maintain high standards. We serve each and every item with the highest degree of excellence and consistency. This is what keeps our regulars coming back, and this is our backbone; especially in garnering recognition from food critics and media. Ohana Island Kitchen is credited by 5280 Magazine as “Denver’s OG poke purveyor” originally selling poke only on weekends before the poke craze took off. We are also listed each year in Westword’s “Best of Denver” since Best Poke became a category, and in 2017 took the award for “Best Fast Casual Concept.” Nationally, Zagat placed us on their list of “The Best Poke Spots Around the US.”
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We would take them an hour west into the town of Evergreen to experience the beautiful scenery so close to the city. We especially love Three Sisters Park for the wide expanse of secluded trails. We’d start the day by getting coffee from Maci in LoHi, and breakfast burritos to go from our favorite Mexican restaurant Araujos. It’s not the most well-known place, but the breakfast burritos are so hot and soft and the filling is very moist–for only two bucks a piece! (don’t let the secret out!) We’d finish the day off with dinner and drinks at Adelita’s.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We thank Rob and Karin Lawler at The Truffle Table for allowing us to rent their restaurant space in the summer of 2016 so we could sell our food through their back door during the day. We are grateful for Frank Schultz of the Tavern Hospitality Group, as he took a chance on us by allowing us to lease his space across the street, with us having no prior experience as restaurant operators. He told us he liked our vibe and was a big fan of the food! Thank you to our 50+ staff that have come through our doors during the 4.5 years we have been open, especially Maddie, who now runs the show.
James Dewhirst (initial photo) Colleen Proctor (photo of Regan and Louie looking out window, pink shirt) Amanda Killam (photo of food with curry) Cassidy Ceresa (photo of poke on yellow table) Sarah Nguyen (photo of food on blue table in email)