It's Spring namazake time~ check the seasonal selections to see what's available!

Q&A and Transparency

A shop Q&A (see here for sake Q&A) follows along with a mission statement and a statement of transparency regarding pricing models, carbon offsets, employee compensation and charity initiatives. 

Q&A

You don't have X sake in your online shop. Do you have it in the store?
Probably not as the webshop is updated regularly, but it's pretty easy to special order sake that is available from the distributor and have it ready on a 1-2 day turnaround. We really only ever stock 2-3 bottles at a time because of the pop-up's small size, occasionally up to a case for seasonal sake, so larger orders will require advance notice to fulfill.
As an alternative, you can find an in-person selection of sake at local retailers Wellspent Market (stocked by Fulamingo), Uwajimaya in Beaverton, and even at H-Mart in SE. But in each of these cases I recommend coming with a clear idea of what you want: none have a live sake sommelier/steward on staff to assist. I also recommend looking closely at bottling dates when you're in large Asian grocery stores; grocery inventory isn't managed closely, so it's not unusual to find bottles that are well past their prime.
Is your website a reflection of your actual inventory?
Yes! This website reflects actual, in-person inventory on the shelf and is updated live. Some retailers have an over-inflated list of all "possible" inventory on their website, and when they receive an order will place that order against the distributor, hoping it's in stock. This lowers their overhead and encourages you to buy so that even if it isn't in stock, they can offer an alternative. This drop-shipper model is becoming really common, but I've had some bad experiences with it as a customer and I don't feel it's a good service model.
So: if you see it on the website, it's legit!
Returns/exchanges
Within 60 days of purchase and for returns made in person, if the sake has a flaw of some kind (it's too old and tastes off, has light or heat damage, cork taint, microbial taint or anything of this ilk) please bring the bottle back, we'll refund your purchase 100%. If the sake is in good condition but you don't like it (not to your taste, you figured out you really don't like umeshu for instance) I'm happy to exchange.
If you purchase anything from the bar (drink, food, etc) and you're not feeling it, let us know ASAP so that we can switch it out for something you'll enjoy.
Operational Mission and Transparency Statement
  • Sunflower is committed to providing staff with a living wage, competitive benefits, training and education, and profit sharing. Our goal is to expand ethically and position a role at Sunflower as a career. 
  • Sunflower is committed to raising the overall level of sake knowledge in the industry, and will endeavor to provide equal access to community members of all financial backgrounds. To that end, Sunflower is:
    • Working with industry peers to establish a WSET Sake scholarship
    • Making a percentage of class/educational event tickets available to low income students at a partially or fully subsidized rate 
    • Charging reduced class tuition for industry members (as verified by an active OLCC license or food handler's permit)
    • Offering an industry discount of 10% and opportunities to attend classes and receive one-on-one training and education at cost, with advance notice. 
  • At least 5% of event profits will be donated to causes that provide support to agricultural workers, diversity in the drinks industry, and AAPI community organizations.
  • (Actual) green business initiatives:
    • Carbon offsets integrated into shipping costs.
    • Local sourcing of merchandise, serveware, and shipping materials whenever possible, including providing a list of vendors and industry partners on request.
    • Support of local artists, producers and creatives through representation and fair pricing of merchandise, and avoiding the sale of mass-produced products typically shipped long distances.
    • Locally sourced and sustainably farmed ingredients are utilized in the menu whenever possible, and out of season ingredients are avoided.
  • Transparent product labeling and sourcing as well as full ingredient lists on hand and available for those with dietary sensitivities.
  • Transparent pricing

Pricing Transparency Statement

Now more than ever, consumers have options. Most of the time you'll be able to buy the very same sake we sell from a variety of vendors, so why Sunflower? And if other vendors are less expensive, particularly vendors working with large volumes or without the costs of a physical space, why buy from a shop that takes rent, community, education and sustainability into its pricing model?

At Sunflower we endeavor to create a multi-dimensional, enriching and inspiring experience. It's my responsibility to make that experience sustainable and ethical by pricing the product accordingly, and I believe it's also my responsibility to share the reasons why it costs what it does so that you can decide for yourself if it's worthwhile. 

  • Sunflower's sake and wine pricing model mirrors the (fairly standard) Portland wine retail markup at 66% cost/ 34% profit margin, which at this time, isn't high enough on its own to cover the overhead of running a shop.  Most successful wine shops depend on investment/collector wine, exclusive offerings, case purchases and/or countrywide shipping in order to make ends meet. For culture and infrastructure reasons sake isn't yet in a position to generate this kind of demand, making other revenue streams (glass pours, events, classes, household items, consulting) necessary. In addition, a huge part of sake enjoyment is meant to be social: with friends, over snacks. Sunflower's goal is to demonstrate how to enjoy sake casually, whether it's out with friends or at home.
  • Glasses and carafes are priced below typical wine markup, and are poured at smaller volumes than wine (3 oz/ 6 oz) to account for the following:
    • Most visitors to Sunflower are curious about sake, but are not experts. Opportunities to explore and try lots of different things are more valuable than committing to one bottle. 
    • Sake's alcohol content is similar to (but higher than) wine, so a smaller pour size is appropriate to avoid intoxication.
    • Sake is extremely cost effective in small pours. Sake is often available at a volume discount in large format (1.8L), and generates very little waste due to its long shelf life. 
    • By encouraging flights and small pours, Sunflower is encouraging customers to familiarize themselves with sake and become experts themselves. 
    • Very few restaurants provide a commensurate level of service to the standard glass pour upcharge. Sake expertise is rare even in Japanese restaurants, and it's not uncommon to either get no story/introduction to the sake, or to be given an info card provided by the distributor. This makes customers feel like sake doesn't deliver good value, when it can, and should! Sunflower flips this concept on its head by making glass pours an appealing and cost effective choice, as well as the best choice for discovery and experience. 
  • Bar snacks are priced at a (standard) 30% food cost margin.
  • Consignment art and ceramics are priced slightly (10-15%) higher than the vendor's direct sales to support the artists' long term financial viability and ability to operate independently. Based on an agreed retail price, 66% goes to the artist/ 34% to Sunflower.
  • Pop-ups are charged a variable rate depending on what Sunflower is providing (drinks, staff, janitorial, etc.) with a typical hosting fee being 10% of revenue. 
  • Sake may go on sale to encourage its movement when we've overestimated demand (or the distributor has) and purchased too much. It's perishable and has seasons, so we respect its shelf life by encouraging movement. When we sell you sake, except where we have specifically discussed its aging potential and have advised you accordingly, the intent is to enjoy soon-- ideally within a few months. If it's on sale, you're basically getting a discount in exchange for the understanding that you should consume it within the next month or so. You should also know that if the sake is actually past its prime, I won't sell it-- sale or not. I'll use it (or give it away) for cooking and write it off as a loss. 
  • Sake import prices vary considerably based on where they enter the US, how far they have to travel, how many intermediary vendors they pass through, refrigeration requirements, demand/volume, etc. For this reason the most expensive sake I sell (relative to its original Japanese price) is a line of natural sake which is exported from Japan by Yoigokochi in tiny quantities, travel under refrigeration the looong way from Japan through the Suez canal to New Jersey where they are picked up by Zev Rovine (an importer), travel across the US to California (to a Zev warehouse), travel to Oregon for sale by Julian Sinclair (a distributor), who sells them to me (a retailer) finally on to you (a consumer). Every party in this process takes a cut and the product itself travels almost around the world before it gets to you. This also means that these sake are cheaper to buy from NYC than they are to buy from Oregon, because of the extra steps to get here. It's extremely stupid because Portland is a quick 7-10 day freight from Yokohama, so in ideal circumstances these sake would probably retail for 40% less (at least) than what you see now. But volume is tiny, infrastructure is tiny, demand is tiny, so for the time being we make do and I try to grow demand. One day though, we'll solve this problem and Japanese sake will be much, much cheaper. But in the meantime if you see this price differential know that it isn't because we're gouging you here in Portland. No--it's just a really inefficient system. If you have any questions though, feel free to ask.