“Yoshi NOW! is a glorified flea market.”
Meet Joy Harvell and daughter Rio Harvell-Toi. They run Yoshi NOW!, located in downtown Fresno. Yoshi NOW! is the fourth and latest store Yoshi Toi has opened in Frenso. It’s your one-stop shop for everything vintage or retro, from shelves upon shelves of ceramic knickknacks to flattering floral print sundresses. You can spend hours in awe in this warehouse of a family-run business and still miss a few treasures.
Yoshi was born and raised in Japan. When he was an adult, he moved near his relatives in Reedley. Yoshi opened a Japanese restaurant in the Fresno area. Joy worked at a nearby Japanese restauraunt and would often eat at Yoshi’s restaurant. This is how Joy met who she calls “the artist formerly known as my husband.”
Yoshi then became involved in real estate and was paid to clean out houses. After cleaning out a house in the Bay area, Yoshi had his first yard sale in order to sell the items. “He had never gone to a yard sale before, let alone had one,” Joy says. The yard sale brought in a lot of money and Yoshi was purchasing yard sale items to resell at his yard sale by the next week. The Garage Sale, Yoshi’s first store, opened a month later. Joy says for the first six months of the business they didn’t have a phone or a PG&E bill.
The Garage Sale eventually grew out of its quaint location into a bigger store. Yoshi and Joy started fresh over six years ago with Yoshi NOW! on Mono and Broadway.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
A friend showed his building to Joy and Yoshi. The warehouse was large enough for their inventory and they fell in love with it. “We never considered the cons when we saw the building,” Joy says. She knew the area well from shopping at the nearby thrift stores since she was eighteen. It didn’t cross her mind there are a lot of people would never dare to go downtown because what they see on the news. “If we knew, we would have thought the whole thing again,” Joy says, “but I’m glad that I didn’t because we love this place.”
Near thrift store row a couple blocks away there are a string of galleries and art studios. A lot of people, however, don’t know that Yoshi NOW! exists. “This is probably the last untouched corner in downtown,” Joy says, “you wouldn’t want to put a restaurant or any other kind of business here.” Either way, Joy says that the location of the business is okay. “If you have something unique, you can be anywhere else as long as you get the word out where you are.”
People who like vintage items eventually find Yoshi NOW!, mostly through word of mouth. Since its opening, the store has enjoyed the support of residents, The Fresno Bee, Fresno Famous and several downtown organizations. “That’s all Yoshi,” Joy says, “everybody knew him from The Garage Sale and loved him.”
A TYPICAL WEEK
Yoshi NOW! is only opened Thursday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Joy, Rio and Yoshi, however, spend all week on their business.
Yoshi goes to auctions and yard sales throughout the week. He also spends his time catering to Japanese customers. Joy says that stores similar to Yoshi NOW! are very common in Japan. Dealers often travel from Japan to the store and leave with trucks filled with purchases. Yoshi then invites them to stay at his house and he cooks for them. “It’s a bizarre world a lot of people don’t know exist,” Joy says.
Joy and Rio keep themselves busy organizing the store. Joy says they love rearranging stuff and going through the boxes of new inventory. I was very surprised when Joy told me they rarely get overwhelmed by massive inventory. She still gets excited about everything that comes in.
WHAT’S WITH THAT SALE?
I made my first trip to Yoshi NOW! four years ago and was thrilled when Joy cheerfully announced that all clothing was 50 percent off and everything else was 30 percent off. To-day, I still see the sign announcing a sale as I walk into the store. Joy says that in the past the inventory grew too large for the warehouse. Yoshi and Joy decided to have a 50 percent sale on clothing and 30 percent sale on everything else for a month. The sale was successful, but Joy still had trouble fitting anything on the racks and decided to continue the sale. “Now it’s a joke,” Joy says, “People say, ‘Oh, 50% still?’ and I say ‘Yeah, we’ll tell you when it’s not.'”
ALL IN THE FAMILY
A year ago, Rio made started to made a regular appearance in the shop. She was raised around it and even had a club house made of junk when she was little, but she wasn’t involved with the business until recently. Rio actively buys women’s clothing for Yoshi NOW! and her clothes have sold the most. Joy says her involvement has been a learning experience for her and Yoshi. Rio often brings in clothing from the 80s and 90s. These are items they would never consider vintage.
Rio has a lot of plans for the business. Yoshi NOW! currently has an eBay account and Rio would like the store to be more involved online. She wants the store to have its own Web site where people can purchase items online. She is also thinking about expanding their online presence by regularly updating their Facebook fan page and joining Twitter.
In the future, Rio plans on either taking over the family business or branching out out on her own. She is thinking about relocating to a different city. “I want to be somewhere else a little less hot and to a place that has more things going on,” Rio says.
LOVE WHAT YOU DO
Joy advises any business owner to enjoy what they are doing. “We’re not getting filthy rich,” Joy says, “but we love what we do.” Adds Rio, “When I have dreams about this place, I’m not grinding my teeth.”
Rio and Joy both agree that customer service is the most important thing for a business owner to focus on. “It’s all about the customers,” Rio says, “we do what we can to make everyone’s experience special.” Rio and Joy accomplish this by making the store visually stimulating, handing out water bottles on a hot day and interacting with all of their customers.
THE 2.5 DEGREES OF SEPARATION
I asked Joy what she liked most about Fresno. She says it’s the community feeling in this big city of ours. Similar to the idea of six degrees of separation, Joy says there is a 2.5 degrees of separation among all Fresnans. “You can go to a show by yourself,” Joy says, “and it’s okay because you’re going to know at least ten people there. That’s the beauty of Fresno.”
Yoshi NOW! is open Thursday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is located on the corner of Mono and Broadway near Chukchansi Park in downtown Fresno.
Check out more photos of quirky finds I found in Yoshi NOW!
Have a lovely day in Fresno!