**If you love a good culinary knife, and are appreciate unique, quality, handmade tools that fall in the intersection of art and functionality, keep reading.
There are not too many things in this world I am genuinely enthralled with. Knives happen to be one of them (pursuing animals underwater with the intent of eating them happens to be another – they tend to go hand in hand). And it’s not every day that I stumble upon a retail store catering to a full-fledged, yet under cultivated passion of mine. But that was my experience when I found Japanese Knife Imports while cruising the tail end of Main Street, right near Windward Circle, in Venice. It was an unseasonably warm December afternoon, and we had just finished a beach clean up (if you are wondering, the most exciting item recovered during the cleaning effort was a message in a bottle, found by my friend Danny. Unfortunately he did not disclose the contents of the message as it opened with, “This message is for your eyes, and your eyes only.”).
After a quick turn on my cruiser took me the wrong way around the traffic circle, I ended up on a sidewalk to avoid pedestrian collision. From the corner of my eye I caught a glisten that could only be generated by cases full of artisan Japanese knives. Opening the door to this newly discovered place was like peaking down the rabbit hole.
Japanese Knife Imports is owned by Jon Broida, an Angelino, who in the course of his culinary career ending up completing a stint in Japan. The business originated as an online store, but when the opportunity to occupy such a fantastic retail space arose, he jumped on it like white on Japanese sticky rice (okay, okay…I couldn’t help it). The store is filled with glass display cases beholding hundreds of hand-crafted culinary blades. The walls are dotted with Japanese art.
After a minute in the store I immediately observed two things: First, there was an overwhelming amount of cool sharp metal surrounding me; second, Jon was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about what he did. Though I was not equipped at that time to purchase anything, I soon returned to buy a few Christmas gifts, and then returned again to pick up a new blade for myself. As far as John’s inventory, he has items in the shop ranging from $30 to $3000. There is a knife for everybody and every occasion. But to give you a better sense for the type of operation he is running, I’ll briefly recount my own buying experience.
I do a good amount of cooking, and relative to my other hobbies, have accumulated fairly few tools or toys over the years. I had been (passively) looking for a new chef’s knife for a while, but wanted something a bit more interesting than one would find at Sur la Table. When I went back to Japanese Knife Imports to buy a knife for myself, I discussed my options with Jon. Not knowing my knife skills (nor my nunchuck skills), he actually tried to DISSUADE ME from going with the more expensive knife I was eyeing – an interesting tactic for someone running a business. But this is in fact a testament to Jon as a business person – he has the genuine interest of his customers in mind, even if it means foregoing a few bucks in the short term. He wanted to make sure the knife I selected was on par with my ability, and that I did not take home something that would go under-utilized, or worse, I would damage.
Above and beyond any of this cooking stuff, I am a business guy, and particularly a marketing guy. And as far as I am concerned, there is nothing more powerful a business can do than provide customers with genuine experiences they will want to share. This is what I got at Japanese Knife Imports. Every time I’ve returned to the shop, there is a group of regulars hanging out and talking knives (yes, there are regulars at knife shops, too). Jon encourages anybody that walks in his door to stick around, learn a thing or two, and come back to chat whenever. It’s a family affair, as his wife Sarah is also often in the shop, and her precision wrapping is not to be scoffed at.
I eventually talked Jon into letting me buy the carbon steel chef’s knife I wanted (I nearly refused to stop clutching it), but he insisted only under once condition – that I return in about a week or so for a sharpening lesson. As far as I am concerned, ignorance has nothing to do with not knowing, and everything to do with not taking advantage when someone is willing to teach. I would take whatever info he was willing to pass along. His offer to teach me sharpening was particularly cool since I assumed he had acquired his sharpening techniques from the Japanese knifemen he buys from, and who knows how long those very same gems of knowledge have been passed along.
If you happen to live in the Los Angeles area, I strongly encourage stopping by Japanese Knife Imports (they may even feed you a tasty afternoon snack and tea). Or, if you don’t live locally but are curious about his selection, check out their website, JapaneseKnifeImports.com. I hope to also be doing a number of “knife tip” videos with Jon in the near future, so stay tuned.
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