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. 


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 stock 2-4 bottles at a time because of the shop's small size, occasionally a case or more for seasonal or special order sake, so larger orders may 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 sake sommelier on staff to assist (however, Eric is on site at Wellspent occasionally!) I also recommend looking closely at bottling dates when you're in large grocery stores: inventory isn't managed closely, so it's not unusual to find bottles that are well past their prime. Aim for a year or less if you're not familiar with the bottle and its aging curve.

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 available!

Within 30 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.

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. The result is that as of 2022, Sunflower is just little ol' me :) and occasionally friends lending a hand. Expansion will only happen if it can be done ethically.
  • 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:
    • Making a percentage of class/educational event tickets available to low income students at a partially or fully subsidized rate 
    • Charging reduced class tuition as a baseline for industry members (as verified by an active OLCC license or food handler's permit)
    • Offering a baseline F&B industry discount of 10% on all classes, events and merchandise
    • Available to mentor eligible candidates or connect potential mentees with mentors in the sake industry.
  • At least 5% of festival event profits will be donated to causes that provide support to agricultural workers, diversity in the drinks industry, and AAPI community organizations.
  • Working with local vendors, artists and contractors whenever possible. Past vendors include: 
    • Each.Other and Ellen Wilde (PDX): branding and creative
    • Michael Newsome (PDX): ceramics and lighting
    • PaperJam Press (PDX): printing
    • Cargo, Kabinett (PDX): furniture
    • Woodcrafters, Mr. Plywood (PDX): building materials
    • Hong's Restaurant Supply (PDX): refrigeration, kitchen and service equipment
    • Rose City Restaurant Equipment (PDX): dishwasher rental, kitchen 
    • Omnipak (PDX): bags and paper goods
  • Green business initiatives:
    • Carbon offsets integrated into shipping costs via EcoCart. This is automatic for every order.
    • Packing orders in used shipping materials whenever possible. New styrofoam is never purchased, but re-used when available.
    • Local sourcing of merchandise, serveware, and shipping materials whenever possible, including providing a list of vendors and industry partners on request.
    • Sourcing primarily from west-coast importers, to reduce the carbon footprint of sake traveling (almost all the way) around the world.
    • Support of local artists, producers and creatives through representation and fair pricing of merchandise, and avoiding the sale of mass-produced wares shipped long distances.
    • Locally sourced and sustainably farmed ingredients are utilized in the menu whenever possible.
  • Maintenance of a pricing transparency statement.

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 brick and mortar, why buy from a shop that takes rent, community, education and sustainability into its pricing model?

At Sunflower we endeavor to create an enriching and inspiring experience that gives more than it takes. It's my responsibility to make the business sustainable 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 Sunflower is worth supporting. 

  • Sunflower's in-person bottle pricing model is slightly higher than the typical (66/34) Portland wine retail markup at 62% cost: 38% profit margin. The higher margin offsets a few costs and initiatives:
    • 1% for the Planet (in progress- planned implementation 3/1/23)
    • EcoCart carbon offsets for all online orders
    • Limited product shelf life (~1y)
    • 10% discount for F&B
    • Refrigeration costs for nama
    • Low-income access to sake education

  • Glasses and carafes are priced below typical wine markup at ~2.5x wholesale + $1 per glass (or per carafe, or flight). For reference, 5x wholesale is industry standard for by the glass wine in a restaurant, and 3-4x bottle price is also typical for bottle lists. Sake is poured at smaller volumes than wine (3 oz/ 7 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.
    • Whenever possible, large format (1.8L) are used for menu pours to improve value for customers.
    • Sake is expensive compared to wine. My average bottle cost for the glass pour menu is $20-30. A typical bottle cost for a wine glass pour in a restaurant would be $10-20.

  • Bar snacks are priced at a (industry typical) 30% food cost margin.

  • Consignment art and ceramics are priced slightly (10-15%) higher than the vendor's direct B2C sales to support the artists' ability to provide higher value for direct sales. 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. 

  • Older sake may go on sale to encourage its movement. When sake is on sale, it has changed from its original taste profile, the taste profile on leaving the brewery. I won't sell sake that isn't delicious: you will never buy sale sake from Sunflower that is off, old, unpleasant or flat. But when certain styles of sake approach 1+ years past bottling date, they will shift toward nutty notes, fuller body, and more expressive umami, and that isn't the intended profile. Still, I love this style-- and hope you do, too!

  • Why are sales so stingey? Only 10-20%? Because the margins are low, unfortunately. When you're buying clothing, video games, health products, supplements, etc., particularly from their maker, and you're seeing deep discounts up to 50% off or more, there's a very good chance that they are still making a profit. This is because a 2-3x markup is not uncommon for many industries. Restaurants and on-premise are notoriously a bad investment because the margins are so poor. You have to do a lot of business, or keep a low overhead, to survive-- much less make a profit. When I mark a product down 10%, or offer a 10% sale, that's almost 1/3 of my profit margin. When I mark it down 20%, that's 2/3 of the profit margin. If I mark down 30%, I'm almost selling at a loss!
    That's a huge deal-- a much bigger deal than Macy's marking down 30%, and still retaining substantial profit margins. Different industry, different numbers, much harder to put things on sale unfortunately!
  • Why does this sake cost so much more than it does in NYC/LA/etc?
    Sake import costs vary significantly based on where it enters the US, how far it has to travel, how many intermediary vendors it passes through, refrigeration requirements, demand/volume, etc.
    One really good example of this is a line of natural sake sold under Yoigokochi Sake Selections. First, tiny quantities of natural sake are consolidated in Yokohama, then packaged for shipment by sea in refrigerated containers. The ships travel to New Jersey via the Suez canal, where they are picked up by Zev Rovine (an importer). Zev allocates quantities to various states and buyers, sending a pallet or two via freight (usually truck) across the US to California (to a Zev warehouse). Zev then ships to Oregon, where a local distributor, Julian Sinclair, receives the sake and sells it to me (a retailer), who finally sells 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 means that these sake are significantly cheaper to buy in NYC than they are to buy in Oregon. It's unfortunate, because Portland is a quick 7-10 day direct 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 with an inefficient supply chain. And for that, I apologize for the higher cost!