Hardworking Hawaii: Nisshodo Candy Store celebrates 100 years in business amid pandemic

Hardworking Hawaii

HONOLULU (KHON2) –This year is monumental for Nisshodo Candy Store. It just celebrated 100 years in business. The small mochi shop is hidden and tucked away in a warehouse in Kalihi.

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“A lot of it is trying not to deviate from the traditional recipes that my grandfather started,” said 3rd-generation owner Michael Hirao.

Nisshodo Candy Store is all about tradition. Hirao’s grandfather started the business in 1921.

“He was from Hiroshima and [he] came in as the sugar plantations grew and they started to hire workers and immigrants. He was one of those that came over,” Hirao said about how his grandfather immigrated to Hawaii.

Making mochi by hand is not easy. Hirao’s family put him to work when he was just a kid.

“When I was younger, we were at the old location near ‘A’ala Park, and my main job I recall was to yell in the back when customers come in,” Hirao said about his childhood.

Nisshodo Candy Store found success over the last century, and not just with the locals.

“Social media like Yelp and so on… That helped spread the word,” Hirao said about how the business started to get popular with tourists.

Chi Chi Dango is Nisshodo’s most popular product. The mochi store was making about 1,800 lbs of Chi Chi Dango each week pre-pandemic. The company makes about 1,000 lbs now because of COVID.

“I’m sure you’ve heard this from everybody interview,” Hirao said to KHON2’s Lauren Day. “It’s been tough. Very tough. We noticed the drop off a lot from the tourists, and the larger parties and gatherings, which basically takes up maybe 20-25% of our business. So that’s pretty much dried up. “

Nisshodo Candy Store has been relying on walk-ins — that too has been difficult.

Hirao said, the store is hidden and difficult to see off Dillingham Boulevard.

The global pandemic has also hurt Nisshodo Candy Store in another way. Suppliers in Japan stopped carrying some of the items Hirao needs to run his business.

“So now I’m scrambling to figure out how I’m going to get certain things and keep our product lines open,” Hirao said about the added challenge he is currently facing.

There have been few times as tough as the COVID-19 pandemic in the business’ 100 years.

Just as Hirao’s family did during the Great Depression and World War II, however, they are going to push through and live up to the name, “Nisshodo.”

“What does ‘Nisshodo’ mean?” Lauren Day asked.

“That’s a good question,” Hirao said. “My father basically says it has to do with the business that the sun never sets on the business.”

Nisshodo Candy Store is located at 1095 Dillingham Blvd., Building I-5.

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