Owner shuts Sushi County, moves business downtown

By Jemma Lopez

Take a close look at the restaurants on Green Street and you’ll notice that one of them, Sushi County, 408 E. Green St., has closed its doors for good.

Sushi County, a Japanese restaurant described by Brian Griebel, senior in business, as “relaxed, inexpensive and convenient” has served the University community for the past two years. Although business was steady, Jea Cho, owner and sushi chef, decided to close the restaurant.

Last fall, Cho and Mimi Lyu, a Sushi County co-worker, opened another Japanese restaurant called Sushi Kame, 132 W. Church St., in downtown Champaign. Cho worked at the new Sushi Kame while Lyu continued to work as a sushi chef at Sushi County. The demanding work schedule became too much for Lyu, however, and Cho decided to close the restaurant after a search for more sushi chefs proved unsuccessful. Lyu said that owning two restaurants was too much for Cho to handle. Closing Sushi County was the best decision, Lyu said.

The restaurant officially shut its doors on March 19, which came as a surprise to many customers. After Sushi County closed, Lyu began work as co-owner and sushi chef alongside Cho at Sushi Kame.

Although there are similarities between the downtown Champaign restaurant and Sushi County, Lyu described Sushi Kame as being more expensive with better quality food.

“Jea and I made this restaurant more cozy with better quality,” she said.

While the majority of Sushi County’s clientele consisted of college students, Sushi Kame has attracted a wider variety of customers. Lyu estimated that at least 20 percent of the customers were University students.

The restaurant replacing Sushi County is Big Mouth’s, co-owned by Matt Martin and Nick Lavorato. The restaurant, which Martin describes as “not your average hot dog stand,” will serve Chicago-style food such as hotdogs, burgers, French fries and their specialty, fried Twinkies. Big Mouth’s has one other location at Illinois State University, and both Martin and Lavorato said they believed the University was the “next logical point” for their business. Big Mouth’s plans to open its doors by May 1.