In 2018, I was in Japan with my partner, eating at a revolving sushi bar restaurant that offered gachapon prizes for plates of food you'd finish. I mean, what more can you ask for? Good food, make it in to a game, AND you get prizes?! 🙌
I remember sitting there, watching the animation play on the little tablet, triggered by the set amount of plates we slid in to the return slot, and saying out loud, "Maybe one day Puglie could be the prize for these restaurants... ionno how but... maybe one day."
That "one day" was February 20th, 2020.
My email that day says I have a "New customer message from Shopify." This can be anything - a kind comment, a customer asking for help, a question, or spam.
I open it to see a professionally written introduction from a Kura Sushi USA representative who expresses interest in collaborating with Puglie.
And I'm like, "...hwut?"
Is this real? 😱💦💦
It was real.
From the initial correspondence, we had meetings, plans set in place, pitched schedules for release dates, and so on, but as you can probably tell from the date, something no one would've expected was about to affect all of us - the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.
Amidst all the hiccups and upsets that pandemic shut downs caused, we continued to work hard through it all! I did what I do best - draw Puglie in food! Specifically, the fan favourite dishes at Kura Sushi.
The fantastic team at Kura Sushi did what they did best, schedule the work flow, design the merchandise and promotional displays using my art, and setting up a blog dedicated to the collaboration!
I'm absolutely so grateful for the efficient, professional, and enthusiastic team of people I got to work with at Kura Sushi to make this journey such an amazing one!
With everything coming together, the launch date was getting ever closer.
In anticipation for the release, Kura Sushi interviewed me so people meeting Puglie for the first time could learn more about who, or what, this little pug was!
Now, since this was such a big milestone, I booked a ticket to Los Angeles for the campaign launch. I was so excited to meet someone from the Kura Sushi team so that I could sincerely thank them, and to also see this all come to life! I had even packed a handful of Asian themed Puglie stickers to bring with me in case anyone recognized me at the Little Tokyo location 👀💖
I got to say thanks to the Kura Sushi representative that initially reached out to me. We took some photos of me holding the prizes in an emptier part of the restaurant which I'm pretty sure was never used because omg I'm so awkward LOL.
I got to overhear some people gush about how cute Puglie was not knowing who he was, which really meant a lot to me 😭💖 And in the end, no one recognized me for the free stickers, and I felt too awkward going up to anyone who did express joy seeing Puglie to offer them a sticker and introduce myself, so I ended up giving them to the staff! I really hope they liked them!
I got to experience the joy from all of you going out to Kura Sushi and taking some Puglies home. I got to feel the pat on the back from so many longtime fans witnessing my lil pug reach a big dream 😭💖💖
And I got to see the joy Puglie brought to people he's never met before 💖
I'll be so honest with you all, none of this felt real. I sit here, writing all this out, posting photo evidence of its existence, and yet I still feel like I need to be pinched.
You know what was the wildest story in all this?
In my initial meeting with Kura Sushi's team, I had a burning question: How did you come across my little Puglie?
It turns out, one of the representative's friends went to a convention in LA, purchased some Puglie stickers, and gifted some to her. She put them on her water bottle, and one day at work, a coworker noticed Puglie on her bottle, thought he was cute, and asked who he was.
That was it. That's what started this whole thing.
I don't think I'll ever find the words to truly express how amazing this whole experience was. My brain also doesn't have the vocabulary or eloquence to convey how grateful I am for Kura Sushi in reaching out to collaborate with a small business artist such as myself.
If in the future I manage to have another collaboration with Kura Sushi, it will continue to be a dream come true.