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Celebrating 20 Years of Top 250

This is the second in a six-part series that commemorates the 20th anniversary of Hawaii Business' Top 250 list

April 1983 cover of Hawaii Business

This August marks the 20th anniversary of Hawaii Business’ Top 250 list, our signature ranking of companies with the highest gross annual sales. In anticipation of this milestone, we launched a series of stories last month recognizing the businesses that have graced our list over the years. This is the second in the six-part series.

YOU WIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME
In January 1983, Hawaii Business offered its own picks for “The Winners and Losers of 1982.” Here are some highlights and updates:

The fledgling Mid Pacific Air hovered among the champs. "To the surprise of many, Mid Pacific stayed the course and steadily solidified the market," the magazine reported. "The stock market seems to like the new guys. For most of the fourth quarter, Mid Pacific's shares were trading higher than Hawaiian Airlines' and just below Aloha's."

Five years later, Mid Pacific Air filed for bankruptcy and eventually shut down. Of course, we don't have to tell you what became of its competitors, right?

Mid Pacific Air filed for bankruptcy in 1988.

As for the losers of 1982, Hawaii Business awarded a booby prize to the local housing industry. The year “was no recession, it was a full-fledged depression. Continuing high interest rates stymied housing demand, sidelining construction firms and their workers. And without sales to fuel them, formerly high-flying realtors nosedived into insolvency.”

Oh, what a difference two decades makes. This year, Hawaii’s residential real estate market continues to perform as one the state’s prime economic drivers, thanks largely to historically low mortgage rates. Oahu experienced a record year in 2002, according to the Honolulu Board of Realtors. More single-family homes were sold than in any year since 1985.

HIGH-RISE HOPES

A newly built Executive Centre and an unfinished Bishop Square.
Between 1982 and 1983, downtown Honolulu welcomed some of its most recognizable high-rise buildings, including Century Square, Executive Centre and Bishop Square. In April 1983, Hawaii Business reported: “For most Honolulu office space developers, 1983 promises to be a year of watching and waiting: Watching for the long-promised economic recovery, and waiting to see how fast the town absorbs the one million square feet of new downtown office space.”

Last year, downtown Honolulu’s vacancy rate was 11.46 percent, according to Grubb & Ellis/CBI Inc. But don’t expect to see another surge in new office space anytime soon. The last groundbreaking for a downtown high-rise office building took place in 1994, when work began on the 30-story First Hawaiian Center.

Shirokiya President Tadatoshi Suzuki in 2002 Photo: Olivier Koning

In 1983, things were looking up for Shirokiya, which locals often referred to as “that Japanese store.” The company, then owned by Japan retail heavyweight Tokyu Corp., ranked No. 59 on Hawaii Business’ Top 100, predecessor to the Top 250. The year prior, Shirokiya’s four stores (three in Hawaii, one in Japan) had pulled in $35.5 million in sales. The company was seeking even more space for its Ala Moana location, Shirokiya President Tadatoshi Suzuki told the magazine.

By 2002, however, this Island institution had dropped to No. 166 on the Top 250 list, reporting gross annual sales of $34.2 million. The reason: In 2001, seven local employees, including Suzuki, had bought Shirokiya from Tokyu Corp. In the process, it was forced to close all but its Ala Moana location. Nevertheless, it was a move that Suzuki didn’t regret. Last year, he told Hawaii Business: “When you belong to a bigger company, … you become a salaryman, and you have to show figures to your main company all the time. But in this case right now, it’s not how big the sales are — it’s the bottom line, the profit.”

Shirokiya President Tadatoshi with a longtime employee in 1983.

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