BRATTLEBORO — Before Shin La Restaurant owner Yisoon Kim stops putting in shifts, she would like to find a buyer for her business that is close to 35 years old.
"I'm over 64. I'm still good," she said. "I enjoy this town very much and I'm very happy. But age, you know, my body's not the same as it was 20 years ago."
The process of selling could take up to one or two years, Kim told the Reformer. She talks to her customers regularly about it. The business, not the building, would be sold. The space would be leased out by Kim to the new owners.
Shin La Restaurant, located at 57 Main Street in Brattleboro, serves fresh Korean cuisine. And Kim would prefer if it stayed that way.
"People, who know any other country's cuisine cooking, could probably run it too. I could teach them," she said. "If they are a qualified buyer, I could teach them."
Kim said she works very hard from the start of the day and all her cooking is her own creation. In the summer, fresh vegetables come from approximately four miles away. Her husband tends to a garden at their Brattleboro residence. No fertilizers or chemicals are used.
The food is healthy, Kim said. Her soups and over 20 sauces are all homemade, too.
"I don't use one sauce for all the food," she said. "This is good love and care food being served to the customers. And the customer knows that. That's why we've stayed. So many restaurants have come and gone. There has to be a reason the customers keep coming back. They are smart. They know what they're getting."
The couple ran the restaurant together for 20 years before Kim's husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2000. He was burned from radiation treatments, lost most of his hearing and must stick to an all-liquid diet.
"He's physically not very strong. He can still move around a little bit at a time," said Kim. "He's at home taking care of the yard and the dog."
The couple's three children lent a helping hand throughout the years. A cot, still in the back of the restaurant, was used for taking naps when the kids were young. Kim's mother-in-law also chipped in, offering assistance.
Kim recalled having a baby and immediately returning to Shin La to serve food. Much of the money earned from the business was used to get her children through college.
"I think a husband and wife could raise their kids and work together," Kim said, referring to the business. "They have to work hard. Because if not, it's gone. They need to make sure everything is run carefully."
Interested buyers can visit Kim at Shin La. She wants to hear of their previous employment and ability to pay for the business.
Shin La is a good fit for the town, said Kim, who claims to be very proud of it. Financially, she said, "We maintain pretty well."
"I don't have any problems," she added.
To help a new owner learn the ropes, Kim said she could come in for two weeks. She does not plan on being employed by the new owner.
With a regular customer base and established reputation, Kim said she thinks the name should remain Shin La. But at the end of the day, it's up to the owner.
"Shin La has a very good meaning," she said. "Shin La is one of the three kingdoms from 1,000 years ago. Shin La was a top leader."
Kim has no plans for retirement except to travel. While her husband was sick, she said she was not able to.
"I had to take care of the children," she said, choking up. "I was very scared. I had to take care of the restaurant. That was my income. I didn't go anywhere for over 15 years. That's O.K. My family is all there and the kids are all done with school and have jobs. My husband is still living. I am very happy with that so no complaints."
Kim wants to visit Korea with her children. She grew up there, coming to America in 1972. Before Brattleboro, she lived in Baltimore, Md., where she sold sandwiches, groceries and "lots of ice cream."
Kim previously owned a small sandwich shop on Elliot Street in Brattleboro. Slowly, she said, she added Korean dishes to the menu.
"One at a time," she said. "It took me a long time to establish Shin La."