"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful."
-- Albert Schweitzer
Say "hello" to Nanako Coates. She's the most recent entrepreneur -- or rather restaurateur -- to set up shop in Concord. If you didn't attend the grand opening and don't know where her restaurant is located, it's at the corner of Clayton Road and Treat Boulevard behind Buttercup Pantry.
Minamoto is the latest in a chain of successful family owned and operated Japanese restaurants in the Bay Area that first opened in San Francisco in the early '70s.
Drop into Minamoto's any time of the day and you're likely to be greeted by Nanako. "Nana" is Japanese for "seven" and "ko" is usually translated as "child," so I assumed she was the seventh child in her family.
"Not so," she says. According to Nanako, her mother picked that name because it seemed fitting for her daughter who was born on the 25th day (2 + 5 = 7) in July (7th month) of '61 (6 + 1= 7) and besides, it appealed to her. Now you know!
Originally from Osaka, Japan, Nanako speaks Japanese and English fluently and has an excellent appreciation of both cultures. A descendant of the Imanaka clan, her ancestors at one time owned and operated exclusive Japanese restaurants in Osaka and Kyoto, and the emperor and visiting dignitaries frequently called upon the family to sample their culinary skills.
Although short in stature (she's under five feet tall), Nanako is a giant of a hostess endowed with a warm and outgoing personality. Everyone she greets walks away smiling. But beyond that exuberant, youthful mien is a seasoned veteran with years of professional experience in the restaurant business.
Nanako at one time sought to be a housewife and raise her two children in Concord where the couple moved in 1993. That all changed after her marriage ended in divorce after 13 years.
Left with two young children, Nanako went back to work in the family restaurant. And as expected, she received no special privileges and was treated like the rest of the staff.
Working alongside her father, Nanako inherited his business acumen and pioneering spirit. As a result, she was a natural to assume the role as president and CEO of Nana Bishou Enterprises upon his death in 2004. Bishou, I'm told, means "smile," which is fitting for Nanako who is never without one.
Why was Concord chosen as the location for Minamoto Restaurant, you might be wondering? According to Nanako, her father fell in love with Concord while visiting with her and expressed his fond wish to move to Concord and set up a restaurant in that city.
Regrettably, he died before realizing his dream. But thanks to his daughter, her father's long-awaited wish has now been fulfilled.
Work on the interior of Minamoto is ongoing, and it's husband Mark's responsibility to complete the job. In the interim, the restaurant is open for business except Tuesdays and Wednesdays. When it's finally over, the dining area will be able to accommodate large banquets and special events. Nanako is hopeful of having everything done by the end of the year.
For those of you who enjoyed dining at Suwa's in downtown Concord before it closed, I've got good news. Toshi Suwa, the former owner and chef, now works in the kitchen at Minamoto's every Thursday. I'm hopeful of persuading Nanako to have one of his specialties, batayaki, which my entire family loves, added to her menu.
If you see our family dining at Minamoto's, drop by our table and say hello. I'd love to hear your comments.
Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.