I-Ho's Korean Grill reopens

Bozeman restauranteur I-Ho Pomeroy poses in her newly reopened restaurant on West Main Street on Monday.

I-Ho Pomeroy’s first customer Monday was welcomed with a hug.

It might have been the occasion, the day after Christmas, as Pomeroy re-opened her Korean grill in its new West Main location, following what had been a nearly two-year hiatus from her longtime business.

Or maybe the greeting, enthusiastic as it was, was just a sign that her Bozeman institution is back to normal.

Pomeroy got her start selling out of a food cart, then spent 16 years running I-Ho’s Korean Grill out of a space on Lincoln Street near the Montana State campus. When she closed up shop there in April 2015, she said her lease hadn’t been renewed after the building came under new ownership.

At the time, she hoped to be back in business by the end of that summer but ended up being delayed while searching out a new location. After looking at a storefront in the Hastings complex near Bozeman High School, she settled on her new space at 2631 W. Main St., formerly the Smiling Moose deli, where she spent much of this summer and fall renovating.

“I didn’t think I was going to be out of businesses this long,” she said.

In the interim, she’s been selling her I-Ho-branded kimchi at local grocery stores (The fermented dish is a probiotic, she says, comparing it to kombucha.) and is also three-quarters of the way through a four-year term on Bozeman’s City Commission. At the latter’s weekly meetings, in between budget sessions and land use hearings, she makes a habit of plying attendees with ginseng candies.

Monday, as she flipped on her flashing open sign, Pomeroy was a ballcap-clad bundle of energy, bustling around the store making last-minute changes and helping her staff work out opening-day kinks.

As customers trickled in for lunch, she greeted them with their own sets of hugs and seasonal greetings, showing off one of her new murals and extolling the health benefits of Korean cuisine.

She’s going to miss being near campus, she said, but she’s upbeat about being not too far from the Gallatin Valley Mall.

“I think,” she said, “this is a pretty good location.”

Eric Dietrich can be reached at 406-582-2628 or edietrich@dailychronicle.com. He is on Twitter at @eidietrich.

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