Family Business on a Roll

Junior Michelle Altankhuyag waits tables at her family’s restaurant, Sky Modern Japanese


Photo Courtesy Sky Modern Japanese

A sushi roll at Sky Modern Japanese, owned by junior Michelle Altankhuyag’s parents.

Julia Trantham, Staff Writer

Serving food, taking care of guests and doing other tasks around the restaurant, junior Michelle Altankhuyag works as a server at her parents’ restaurant, Sky Modern Japanese.

“My parents and two of their friends own the business.” Altankhuyag says. “It was in the works for years, and they just started it about eight or nine years ago.”

Altankhuyag’s parents Suvadaa Natsagdorj and Altankhuyag Gongor have been working in the Japanese food industry since they moved to America from Mongolia. Everyone who works at the restaurant as a server is Mongolian, and the second sushi chef is also Asian. There are two other employees who are Mexican.

“The restaurant originated from the idea that my parents and their friends had while working at another Japanese restaurant, and they had hopes that their business would take off due to their experience in the industry and that they would bring joy to others sharing the Japanese culture,” Altankhuyag said.

Altankhuyag says that her biggest struggle with her job is assumptions made by the customers.

“People always expect me to be Japanese or Korean or Chinese,” Altankhuyag said. Since my parents own the restaurant, they assume that I am Japanese and that I know the language. Although my parents do, I only know some Japanese.”

Because of the ongoing pandemic, the restaurant has had to deal with some difficulties. 

“At this moment, our main struggle is staffing, Altankhuyag said. “Due to COVID-19, we have been short staffed, making me obligated to work full-time hours there. Because we are mainly an Asian-run restaurant [with employees from] eastern and central Asia, my parents feel the need to hire Asians as well as to stay true to the origins of the restaurant. If we were a bigger chain, we would probably not face the struggle of finding staff to work.”

Altankhuyag says that the establishment’s main competition is other restaurants in the area.

“There is a Mediterranean and Chinese restaurant in the shopping center we are [located] in, but otherwise, there’s just a Panera Bread and Fresh Market and American bakeries,” Altankhuyag said. “Due to our location, we have to compete with restaurants like Mount Fuji, Benihaha and Sakura.”

Altankhuyag says that the restaurant does not really rely on different marketing strategies, and that they have the community and their communication. 

“We’re a pretty good rated restaurant, and due to the years of the [establishment’s] existence, my parents have formed a pretty good relationship with their customers,” Altankhuyag says. “The restaurant is spread mostly by word of mouth, and sometimes we’re featured on the radio.”

Altankhuyag says that the best way for people in the community to support this business is simply just by visiting. The website for the restaurant can be found here.

“Just by sitting down and having a meal and by spreading the word of the restaurant, you could help out tremendously,” Altankhuyag said.