Hardworking Hawaii: 101-year-old Hilo fishing store thrives amid coronavirus pandemic

Hardworking Hawaii

HONOLULU (KHON2) — S. Tokunaga Store just celebrated 101 years in business.

The Hilo fishing shop opened in January of 1920.

“It was a true mom-and-pop type of business. Small kids running around, you know?” said third-generation owner Michael Tokunaga.

Tokunaga’s grandfather immigrated from Japan and loved to fish. The first store that his grandfather opened was tiny.

“It was like, you know, a one or two man operation,” Michael explained.

The business expanded over the years and it also went through a number of major set backs.

“My mom took over the business in 1960 that was right after the historic tsunami,” Michael Tokunaga said. “What happened was my grandfather wanted to call it. He ‘enough, enough already’ because he had been through the 1946 tidal wave prior to that.”

Tokunaga’s mother, Ethel, rebuilt the family business after losing everything twice.

“In 1960, running a fishing tackle shop versus a jewelry store or even, you know, a dress shop or a hairdresser, you know, she took on the fishing tackle business, so I gave her big credit for that,” Tokunaga said about his mom.

COVID-19 happened after surviving an entire century.

“We were very worried. We didn’t know what to expect,” Tokunaga said about how he felt at the beginning of the pandemic.

Tokunaga quickly realized the pandemic would actually work in his favor, however. More people wanted to take up fishing.

“They had to get out of the house, let’s put it that way. And then in the meantime, you have the first time fisherman,” Tokunaga said.

Tokunaga says he believes COVID-19 made more people want to spend time outdoors but the increase in demand created an inventory problem.

“A lot of times, we tried to get stuff, we couldn’t get [it]. We got to try other places,” he explained. “The commodity was hard to get, you know, real typical economics, you know? Supply and demand.”

Michael Tokunaga said he ended up doing roughly 20% more in business during the pandemic than in past years.

Searching for inventory became his full-time job to keep up with the deand. He said it was worth it to see his store become an oasis for the locals.

“Hilo people like to come in, talk story, interact with each other and the staff,” he said. “They call it, ‘my store,’ like it’s their store and I like that, when they say that kind of things,” Michael Tokunaga said.

It is that reaction from his loyal customers that is keeping Michael Tokunaga going, even during the a pandemic.

S. Tokunaga Store also revamped its online shop amid the pandemic. If you would like to support them, click here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Hawaii News

More Local News

Trending Stories