This Christmas, Lisa Lin has a lot to rejoice about: her daughter, restaurant and health
Lisa Lin has many reasons to keep that infectious smile on her face this holiday season. The most important reason, though, came as the result of news that deeply impacted Lin and her family. Two and a half years ago, while living in Colorado, Lin was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
“I had always had seasonal allergy problems,” Lin explained, “but this time, I was different. The allergy medicine was having no effect, and I was experiencing severely swollen glands. That was when the doctor informed me that this was not due to allergies.”
Following her diagnosis, Lin began a series of radiation treatments that set forth new challenges, including a separation from both her husband and then 11-month-old daughter, Amber.
“For about a week after I finished my treatments, I was secluded from my family. It was very difficult for us,” she said. “Fortunately, my mother-in-law stepped in to help by taking care of our daughter. It was a big sacrifice to send my daughter to Taiwan.”
On Dec. 17, Lin received “the best Christmas present of all,” the return of her now three-and-a-half-year-old daughter from Taiwan. It is the first time the family has been together in two years.
“I’ve seen her on Skype, but we haven’t physically seen each other in two years,” she said. “She’s the only thing I wanted for Christmas. I’m still pinching myself.”
The Lins met Amber and her grandmother at the same airport they said goodbye years ago.
“I hugged Amber when she ran to me. It was like her saying ‘You’re not forgotten, you’re my mom.’ Nothing’s worth that feeling,” she said. “When we left her at the terminal two years ago, we cried because we felt bad. Last night was the opposite. We cried tears of joy.”
During her convalescence, Lin and her husband decided to act on an idea that had previously been only a passing thought.
“It had always been in the back of our minds to open a restaurant,” she said. “But when I found out I had thyroid cancer, Jet and I just asked ourselves, ‘What is our dream?’ So, we decided to build our dream. That is really what got us motivated. We discovered that life really is too short to not put your foot down and move forward with your dream!
Lin rarely meets strangers as her smile and a warm, inviting handshake are her calling cards. It’s the perfect introduction to the Kobayashi Sushi & Asian Kitchen, which Lin manages and co-owns with her husband, Jet. That warmth and sincerity are indicative of Lin’s primary focus when it comes to the restaurant: the customers.
“I’ve just enjoyed meeting so many local regulars,” Lin said when asked what she enjoys most about her business. “We have so many people who eat here, three or four times a week. It’s part of their routine. The customers are the reason why you get up in the morning.”
She plans to stay healthy enough to continue serving her customers.
“Right now, I am cancer free,” said Lin, who regards her treatment scar as “just a pretty necklace. I intend to stay healthy, control my diet.”
In the year since beginning the pursuit of their dream, Lin remains optimistic, yet practical.
“We get the hiccups,” she laughed, referring to the ups and downs of running a business. “We have good days and bad days. We are still learning.”
The restaurant, 2295 Greenfield Ave., celebrated its one-year anniversary on Dec. 7. In July, the Lins celebrated one year of living in Noblesville.
“We kind of stumbled onto Noblesville,” Lin said. “It’s so much like home. I grew up in Fort Wayne, so we wanted to be in a place that was just like home.”
Lin arrived in the United States as a refugee from Vietnam in 1979. She described herself and her family as “fresh out of the boat.”
“We didn’t know a lot. There was a lot to learn. It was a very big adjustment,” she said.
In the ensuing years, Lin became something of a world traveler. Following high school graduation, she spent five years in Japan and a year in Colorado before returning to Fort Wayne. “I didn’t want to get too comfortable. I wanted to gain some experience, some work experience. That is why I travelled.”
So, what lead Lin and Jet to the restaurant business?
“Jet had worked for his aunt in Fort Wayne,” Lin said. “His aunt owned the first Asian restaurant in Fort Wayne, and he worked for her for 20 years. We had thought about opening a sushi bar in Fort Wayne, but there was just too much competition. That is when we decided on Noblesville.”
Lin still remains committed to their restaurant and its customers.
“I look forward to babying our one restaurant. I don’t want a franchise. I just want our one restaurant to grow. When you expand, you may not be able to maintain the same quality. We want to serve good food, and we want it to be unique. Having gone through what I went through, I feel like I’ve been given a second chance. So, I want to give something back.”
Meet Lisa Lin
Hobbies: “I like to plant/gardening, but I don’t have a green thumb.”
Comfort food: Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup with a side of steamed rice
Favorite recipe to make: Pho-beef noodle
Kobayashi Sushi & Asian Kitchen
Where: 2295 Greenfield Ave.
Hours: Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Dinner: 4:30 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 4:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday.
Web site: www.kobayashisushi.com