Hardworking Hawaii: Fukuya, in business 81 years, thanks loyal customers for keeping it afloat

Hardworking Hawaii

HONOLULU (KHON2) — While tourism is slowly starting to come back to Hawaii, many long-time businesses are still relying on locals and take-orders to get through the pandemic.

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One such business is Fukuya Deli & Catering.

Arrison Iwahiro’s great grandparents Fukuya opened in 1939.

“It was very small. One to two people working,” Iwahiro explained about the size of the first location. “They would cook the food in the morning, put it out, and once it sold out, that was it,” he said.

The 81-year-old Japanese okazuya store is now located on South King Street.

“You just come in and see what we have available, and you make up your own plate,” Iwahiro said.

Fukuya sells a range of delicious food.

“We have musubi, sushi, mochiko chicken, noodles, chow fun, tempuras,” Iwahiro said about some of his most popular items.

For decades, Fukuya has been a family affair.

 “We had a whole bunch of family that would help out, and I guess that was what I remember,” Iwahiro said, reflecting on his favorite childhood memories. “You know, a lot of aunts and uncles came in when it was busy, and just being able to hang out with them and work with them.”

Eventually, Fukuya began catering events like weddings and funerals, that’s when business started to take off in the 80s.

According to Iwahiro, catering accounted for nearly 50% of business.

However, because of COVID-19, that income is practically gone.

“To be honest, it got scary a few times, especially when the first shutdown happened,” Iwahiro explained.

Iwahiro knew his business had to adapt fast.

“We did bentos instead of catering,” he said about the need for individual meals during the pandemic.

However, making individually wrapped meals and relying on over-the-counter orders has not been easy.

 “I know sometimes it’s not perfect,” Iwahiro stated. “You know, customers get upset because they have to wait or whatever their reason is. But we’re doing our best to try and make it go as smooth as possible.”

Iwahiro said the reason Fukuya is able to survive the pandemic is because of its loyal customers.

“I believe that it was the generations before me that built a great foundation for the business by just building that loyal customer base was very important,” he said.

Iwahiro said he is doing his best to survive for his customers, employees and for his mom, who recently passed away.

“My goal today is just to get through this pandemic, and to try to carry out her legacy,” Iwahiro said. “I am not sure how long this lasts, but we’re definitely gonna give it our best shot.”

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