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Kuma Japanese Ramen LLC is open for business at 3405 E. Battlefield Road.
Kuma Japanese Ramen LLC is open for business at 3405 E. Battlefield Road.

Young entrepreneur adds third restaurant under his belt

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An entrepreneur from South Korea is making his mark on Springfield with a new east-side restaurant.

Jay Jung launched Kuma Japanese Ramen LLC Sept. 26 near the Battlefield Road and U.S. Highway 65 interchange. The 31-year-old also owns OMO Japanese Soul Food LLC in Chesterfield Village and MaMa’s Korean Grill LLC on South Campbell Avenue.

Kuma specializes in ramen, sushi and poke bowls.

“It’s a Hawaiian/Japanese rice bowl or salad bowl,” Jung said of poke bowls. “In bigger cities, it's a trend.”

Jung said most of the business in his busy first week was to-go orders, which was unexpected, he said.

Kuma, which means bear in Japanese, was the inspiration for the eatery’s artwork and logo, Jung said. The logo features a stoic-faced brown bear. In paintings around the restaurant, Jung has replaced the faces in famous paintings “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and Vincent van Gogh’s self-portrait with the brown bear mascot.

“I like to be unique,” Jung said. “We asked our sign company about a fun sign and they created that logo for us. We just love it.”

Jung is no stranger to the restaurant business. In January, he took over ownership of MaMa’s Korean Grill, formerly named Jin’s Korean Japanese Restaurant, when his mother retired. His parents also owned a restaurant in South Korea, where Jung was born. They moved to the states when he was 12 years old after his mom was offered a job as a chef at a Dallas hotel.

“I grew up around restaurants,” he said. “My uncle is a first-generation culinary chef in South Korea, like the Gordon Ramsay of South Korea. … And my grandpa used to own a huge food company, like the Korean version of Kraft.

“Our family has just been in this business for a long time.”

Kuma employs four chefs and four to five servers, Jung said, noting he is looking to hire more people.

Jung says he spent $95,000 in startup costs. He has a three-year lease for $2,700 per month for the 2,000-square-foot space at 3405 E. Battlefield Road, Ste. 124, from Greenleaf Holdings LLC.

He says proximity to his other Springfield restaurants motivated his choice of location.

“I have MaMa’s Korean in the middle of the town and I have OMO on the west. I really wanted to try the east side of town,” he said.

A grand opening event is planned for Oct. 12.

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