Stan Kato, The Grape Tray
“The population is large in Fresno but there is still a tight-knit feeling.”
Meet Stan Kato. Stan owns The Grape Tray, a wine cellar and sandwich shop in Fresno. When you walk in, there’s a large wine selection. In the back is a popular little deli featuring nifty gourmet-style sandwiches.
Before Stan bought The Grape Tray, he was a financial manager at a big corporation in Los Angeles. “Everything was fine,” Stan says, “but we were looking for something different. When you work for a big company, you always have to report to someone no matter how high you are,” Stan says. Stan decided to own a business of his own in search of some independence.
After Stan and his wife left their steady jobs in 1991, they moved to Fresno. “My wife’s family was in Fresno,” Stan says, “And after visiting for a couple of years, I thought, ‘That would be a nice place to relocate.’”
When Stan and his wife first moved to Fresno, it was over 100 degrees for a couple of weeks. “I thought to myself, ‘What have I done?’” Even so, they continued to look for a business to buy. After looking at several businesses, they decided to buy The Grape Tray. “It was very unique,” Stan says. With a high ceiling, hardwood floors and a cozy loft now used as dining area, he says, it looks “like it belongs in San Francisco.”
ON HAVING A BUSINESS IN FRESNO
For Stan the greatest perk of having a business in Fresno is the opportunity to form relationships with his customers. “The population is large in Fresno,” Stan says, “but there is still a tight-knit feeling.” Stan’s initial reaction to Fresno was that the people were nicer. “In L.A.,” Stan says, “you don’t even make eye contact.” Stan says that this feel of a community in Fresno gives him the opportunity to know his customers.
There is a downside to Fresno, though: Stan says business does not benefit from tourism during the summer, as he says Fresno residents usually leave for some place cooler.
The location of The Grape Tray, Stan says, hurts the business. The area is not frequently traveled like River Park. “Everyone wants to move north,” Stan says, “but the rent is three times more expensive.”
Stan says that California, in general, is not a business-friendly state. As a business owner, Stan has to pay for special public services. “Every time you look,” Stan says, “there’s a fee you have to pay whether your business is busy or slow.” Stan says that the fees add up and somewhat discourages small business owners from doing business in California.
The largest issue with owning a business, however, is more general — the risk. When you’re working for someone, Stan says, you can have a bad week, but the paychecks keep coming. When you have your own business, you have to constantly figure out new ways to create revenue, maintain relationships with customers and attract new customers.
ADVICE TO OWNING A BUSINESS
Stan says it is important for businesses to always remember who their customers are. “When businesses get too big,” Stan says, “they forget who their customers are.” Stan says these relationships formed with customers are very valuable for a small business.
Stan has found that the most effective way to advertise The Grape Tray has been his newsletters he e-mails to anyone interested. The e-mails inform customers of new shipments of wine, wine tastings and wine specials.
Stan Kato. Owner
The Grape Tray
(Shaw Avenue and First Street)
You can visit The Grape Tray’s Web site
You can also sign up for The Grape Tray’s twice-weekly e-mail.
Have a lovely day in Fresno!