When Renee Tamboles talks about the community support she’s received from opening Island Fin Poke, she gets emotional.
“The community was so welcoming,” she says, blotting away tears with a napkin.
After months of permitting and health inspection delays, Island Fin Poke, located at 1604-1608 Delaware Ave. in Wilmington’s Trolley Square, opened at the end of February. The fast-casual franchise serves up made-to-order poke bowls and Dole Whip.
This is the company’s first location in Delaware.
Tamboles is the owner of this franchise location. A new resident of Wilmington, she says she knew about the city and the success of Trolley Square’s dining scene from working in a nearby law firm.
“I knew it was a hot spot,” she said.
She first came across poke, a traditional Hawaiian dish that typically includes diced raw fish, about two and a half years ago. Poke bowl shops have become popular across the continental U.S. in recent years as people are able to create their own dishes with various bases, proteins, toppings and sauces.
Tamboles was in New Hope, Pennsylvania attending a festival when she ate at a poke shop in town.
“I didn’t want to eat greasy or carnival food, so we went into this building and it was all different vendors,” she explains.
After having her first poke bowl, she was hooked.
She decided to make an investment in the restaurant business, but with no prior experience in the industry, she decided a franchise would be the best route. A franchise broker gave her three suggestions and Island Fin Poke was the best fit.
With the franchise’s owners being about her age and the company’s focus on family, it all fell into place.
“It was a no brainer,” she says.
However, getting Island Fine Poke open was another story. Tamboles said the city of Wilmington required a heavy permitting process for the building and then the Delaware Health and Social Services caused a delay of six to eight months due to the number of new restaurants opening across the state needing inspections.
“It was just one thing after another,” she said.
But now that the eatery is open, customers can finally try the dishes they’ve been waiting months for.
The create-your-own bowl allows customers to pick their base of white rice, brown rice or spring mix and top it with a variety of proteins, mix-ins, toppings and sauces. All of the marinating sauces and finishing sauces are made in-house.
Proteins include spicy tuna, salmon, octopus, chicken and tofu.
And for dessert, Dole Whip is available, a soft serve dairy-free frozen dessert.
“Everyone who dines in gets a sample of Dole Whip,” Tamboles said.
With such early success, Tamboles hopes to see it continue. And, except for the lack of sleep from waking up before 7 a.m. and working until 10 p.m., she has nothing to complain about.
“It’s a good tired,” she said, smiling.