With a smile that shines beyond the window of the small Tokyo Crepes shop at 110 E. Ashley Ave. on Folly Beach, Yukari Yucca greets patrons in a T-shirt depicting an energetic Prince Kiki.
Kiki, 34-year-old Yucca explained, is a cartoon character who "came to Folly Beach to save the world" by serving tasty crepes.
Kiki, Yucca and Yucca's business partner — boyfriend John Baker — are doing very well at what is Folly Beach's first and only Tokyo-style crepes outlet, Yucca said. The shop opened in April, she said, and is giving beachgoers something besides cheeseburgers, hot dogs, pizza, tacos and seafood to munch on.
"It's working so far," she said. "We're doing really good."
Business for the new shop started slowly and has picked up as the weather has warmed. The shop gets a lot of repeat customers, Yucca said.
Yucca often works the day shift, and Baker takes the night shift. As a testament to how well the new business is doing, the late shift sometimes extends until the wee hours of the next morning. There have been times when lines of people were at the crepes shop window at 2:30 a.m., shortly after closing time at the island's bars, she said.
Tokyo-style crepes are "a good snack for people after the bars," she explained.
A crepe is a food wrap, not so new to Folly, but Tokyo-style crepes have a "secret ingredient," said Yucca, adding that the secret is the freshness.
French-style crepes, which are better known in the United States, usually include precooked ingredients, she said. Tokyo crepes come chock-full of a variety of freshly cooked ingredients.
Ingredients listed on Tokyo Crepes' menu include ham, tuna, egg and turkey bacon, plus cheeses, salad dressings and vegetables such as spinach,
corn and lettuce. But the shop is serving more and more dessert crepes filled with chocolate, bananas, strawberries, other berries, nuts, syrups, ice cream and whipped cream.
"Folly Beach doesn't have a lot of dessert places," she noted.
Baker came to Charleston from the Baltimore area. For Yucca, the road from Japan to The Edge of America was a long one.
She came to the U.S. to study theater and the music business. After classes in Arizona, she landed a job with a sound production company, which brought her to Charleston. She remains active in music production by setting up and taking down equipment for musicals and productions, including some for Spoleto.
She also enjoys performing, which she has done locally as a singer and a player of the Japanese three-string, fretless guitarlike instrument called the shamisen.
Yucca and Baker met in Charleston, and she said it was Baker's idea to get into the food business.
"He was thinking of entering the food business, and not a little restaurant but something new," she recalled. "He came up with the crepes idea. It's huge in Japan. You see them everywhere you go in Tokyo."
Yucca is not sure what the future holds, but said a successful shop at Folly Beach could mean the couple open other businesses in the Charleston area, perhaps one that caters parties and festivals, she said.
Judging by commentary posted on various Web sites, the crepes shop is a hit. One reviewer on Yelp.com gave Tokyo Crepes a five-star rating and called it "the perfect (and only) little dessert stand on Folly Beach."
Reach Edward C. Fennell at 937-5560 or firstname.lastname@example.org.