Hardworking Hawaii: Hilo restaurant owner loses dad to coronavirus, carries on his legacy

Hardworking Hawaii

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Seaside Restaurant and Aqua Farm in Hilo has been a gathering place since 1915.

It became popular for the fresh fish that was caught not far from the restaurant.

Download the KHON2 app for iOS or Android to stay informed of Hawaii’s breaking news

Third generation owner Colin Nakagawa also credits another product for their success.

“It did really well because I guess they served liquor, they had Geisha dancing and music. It became very popular,” Nakagawa said.

While he was not the original owner, Nakagawa’s grandfather took over the business in 1926.

Nakagawa’s family would endure a number of tough times over the next two decades.

“The restaurant closed for a bit because of Pearl Harbor,” Nakagawa said. “In 1946, the tsunami destroyed the original Seaside Restaurant.”

The family’s livelihood was washed away in one day.

“Just to have your whole business be destroyed and trying to restart over again. I guess it took a lot of hard work and perseverance,” Nakagawa said.

That never-give-up attitude is a part of the Nakagawa bloodline. It was the reason why his grandfather was able to rebuild after the major tsunami hit Hilo.

Colin’s dad, Susumu Nakagawa, started running the restaurant in the 80s after serving in the U.S. military.

“Seaside probably wouldn’t be here without his hard work and perseverance,” Nakagawa said about his dad.

Nakagawa said the lessons his dad taught him is what helped him survive the pandemic.

“We had to close for three months, and at that time I wasn’t too sure whether to stay or re-open or close permanently,” he said.

Seaside Restaurant’s main source of revenue is through dine-in service, according to Nakagawa. With no tourists visiting the Big Island for much of 2020, that made the pandemic even tougher.

Now that tourism and business is coming back, Nakagawa is facing yet another hurdle.

“It’s definitely a challenge to find good workers, especially with the unemployment that people have been receiving,” he explained about how hard it is to hire people right now.

The pandemic not only took away business and workers, but also Nakagawa’s father.

Susumu Nakagawa was a resident at Hilo’s Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home.

“When I got the call that he got COVID, my heart dropped, and I thought to myself, ‘How could it happen?'” he said.

Colin’s father passed away one day after his 98th birthday.

Susumu was one of 27 residents who died from a COVID-19 outbreak at the nursing home in 2020.

“To lose your dad, especially at a time when it’s unpredictable. It took me to my heart that it’s just so hard to lose a loved one,” Nakagawa said.

Despite the financial and emotional difficulties of 2020, Nakagawa said he is pushing forward for his dad.

“I guess it’s my passion to keep that family tradition going and keep Seaside Restaurant going for as long as I can. Hopefully, maybe, I can find someone to take over the torch and keep Seaside going for another 100 years,” he said.

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