Former Cardinals pitcher Todd Stottlemyre has lost count of the number of times he’s been approached to lend his name to one brand or another, especially restaurants. He’s always hesitated to do so, but when an opportunity arose with Koibito Poké, something just felt different.
“I’d been approached during my baseball and post-baseball career about a number of different concepts, but, without knowing anything about the industry, I’d always said no,” Stottlemyre says. “I’d heard horror stories of other athletes getting involved in restaurants, so I’d always stayed away. However, when my business partner asked me to go with him for lunch, and I saw it was a poké concept, it just matched perfectly with where I am in my life — and it’s my favorite food.
“For Stottlemyre, who endeared himself to Cardinal nation as a pitcher from 1996-1998, the allure of poké goes far beyond a taste for fresh seafood. As a professional athlete, health, nutrition and fitness have always been front of mind for Stottlemyre. However, just how important they are to life beyond the field began to crystalize about ten years ago. At that time, his father (who passed away in 2019) was battling cancer, and Stottlemyre began thinking about his health in terms of his own children.
“I was in a place where I did not want to take my health for granted and wake up one day with bad news,” Stottlemyre says. “Not that it’s not going to happen, but I want to do my part to live as long as I can, not for me, but for my kids. I want to see them go to school and get married and be around to have grandkids. I can’t do that if I don’t take care of my health.
“In this sense, Stottlemyre sees Koibito Poké not simply as simply a place to get delicious food, but a way by which he and his team can make healthful eating simple, easy and delicious for people. As he explains, the food at Koibito is served in its rawest — and thereby most nutritious — form and doesn’t weigh people down the way a heavy, highly-processed meal does. As Stottlemyre has found in his own life, he just feels better consuming a raw-fish and vegetable-focused diet, and he is excited to share that lifestyle with others.
“What we put in our bodies determines how we perform and our energy levels,” Stottlemyre says. “That’s why we are trying to accomplish here: to help people who live a fast-paced lifestyle get a nutritious meal so they can go and perform in life after that meal. After you eat at Koibito, you don’t feel sluggish or bloated. It’s like there are a bunch of smiley faces inside your body saying, ‘Thanks. I needed that.’
“Stottlemyre and his team, including local franchise operator Shane Yearian, plan to open two Koibito Poké locations in St. Louis this summer. The first, which will be located in Des Peres, is slated for a July launch, with a second spot in Warson Woods scheduled to open shortly thereafter. These are the first Koibito Poké locations outside of Arizona, where the brand started, and represent the company’s initial push to expand nationwide. For Stottlemyre, who has fond memories of his time with the Cardinals, St. Louis felt like the perfect place to take his business to the next level.
“St. Louis is important to me for a lot of reasons,” Stottlemyre says. “I loved playing there; it was my favorite place to play. People treated me incredibly well. I was a blue collar player, and they cheered me when I was playing well, and they also stuck by me when I was not playing well. My partner [Yearian] shares my passion; he loves the concept and shares my passion for what we are trying to do.”
Both St. Louis Koibito Poké locations will follow the same format that has been successful in Arizona: Customizable poké bowls, made from a variety of proteins, toppings and housemade sauces, served in a fast-casual setting. Though raw fish is major part of the restaurant’s menu, Koibito also serves grilled chicken, cooked shrimp and tofu for those looking for something different.
In addition to the food, Stottlemyre is also proud of Koibito’s social mission, which is realized through its charitable foundation, Koibito Cares. Though a variety of initiatives, such as providing meals to students who lost school-provided lunches during the pandemic, the company is making sure that it has a positive impact on the community far beyond simply providing a place to get a good meal.
“We want to do good by doing good,” Stottlemyre says. “We’re not here to take, but to give and serve. That is the single most important thing to me.”