Meet Binko Chiong-Bisebee, co-owner of KOBO in Seattle’s Capitol Hill and International District neighborhoods, along with her husband, John Bisbee. In Japanese, kobo translates to “artist’s workspace,” which is how the art gallery and shop functions. KOBO showcases artisan Japanese and Northwest fine crafts in both traditional and contemporary works. With KOBO, Binko and her husband John Bisbee hope to serve as a reminder of the human hands and work that go into making the everyday objects around us.
Get to know Binko in this week’s Business Spotlight Q&A.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What’s something your customers may not know about you or your business?
This is our 25th year. We’re amazed we’re still here. Time went by very fast. John and I feel very honored to have been doing this for 25 years.
What’s your favorite part about the neighborhood/community your business is in and why?
We’re in two different communities! I think for the International District, there’s that connection to heritage and history, and that’s really important. There’s a lot of new buildings going on and neighborhoods being recreated. The International District is a very, very special place in Seattle — there’s nothing like it. In terms of Capitol Hill, I grew up on Capitol Hill and I’ve seen it go through a lot of changes. I live here so it’s just a part of who we are here. The ID to me is a little different. Sometimes I feel like it needs to be spoken for and people need to fight for. There’s different issues that the ID and Japantown faces. There needs to be more voice to make sure that people honor it and support it. Capitol Hill is different. It already has a stronghold… Both neighborhoods are so important to us and who we are. I couldn’t live without either.
Why is it important to you and your business that people #SpendLikeItMatters?
It’s pretty tough right now, especially for our restaurants. I think we’re going to probably send something out to tell our friends and community to do takeout — forget about cooking for the next few weeks and just do takeout. I think a lot of us are cooking more at home because we’re trying to be careful and we don’t want to go out. I think the messaging is that there’s not a great risk for you to do takeout. I think the normal reaction is just, ‘I’ll stay at home, I’ll cook at home.’ One of our neighbors, up on Capitol Hill, Cook Weaver, is having a difficult, difficult time at his restaurant so we’re ordering chicken dinners tonight. But that’s not the first thing we think of, ‘Let’s takeout.’ It’s like, ‘I want to takeout but I just feel like it’s just easier to stay home and cook for ourselves.’ Anyway, that’s what I’m going to do for the next couple of weeks.