2011-2012 Founders & Visionaries- Hawaii's Best
(page 6 of 9)
Shiro, aka "Mistah Saimin"--Poet, Singer, Musician & Cook
Franz Shiro Matsuo dreamed of being an entrepreneur all his life. From humble beginnings growing up in the Aala Park area, Shiro was drafted into the army during World War II, where he eventually became the personal assistant and cook for one of the colonels. It was then that Shiro discovered his passion for cooking.
When he returned to civilian life, he fostered his newfound love for cooking by working at his brother’s restaurant in Waikiki and then as the main chef at Mochizuki Teahouse, also owned by his brother. Shiro and his brother embarked on several business ventures together, but in the end, they lost everything. Shiro’s brother passed away, and Shiro spent 15 years working tirelessly to pay off the debt.
Shiro dipped his foot into the pool of restaurant ownership, opening several restaurants, but none prevailed. Eventually, then-governor John A. Burns offered him a job as his personal chef at Washington Place. Through that connection, Shiro earned a job as one of the first cooking instructors at Kapiolani Community College (KCC) through a new program funded by the Manpower Training and Development Act. That program has grown into what we now know as the esteemed Culinary Institute of the Pacific — headed by one of Shiro’s prized students from his first graduating class at KCC.
Things were looking up for Shiro. He loved his teaching career, but the drive for starting his own business still bit at him. One day, the owner of the then-failing Aiea Bowling Alley Drive In offered him the business at a price he couldn’t refuse. Shiro transformed the restaurant into Shiro’s Hula Hula Drive In, and it took off.
In 1969, Shiro decided that the business had outgrown the Aiea Bowling Alley location, so he moved it to the Waimalu Shopping Center, where he famously revolutionized the staple of saimin as a meal in itself.
Even at 92, Shiro still goes to work every day.
At that time, saimin was merely a snack; however, Shiro knew that it could be more. He opened his restaurant under a new name: Shiro’s Saimin Haven, which now boasts over 60 versions of saimin, along with plenty of other local favorites.
Now, more than 40 years later, Shiro’s Saimin has grown to encompass three locations, and while still keeping the warm family environment that helped it thrive in the beginning. Shiro, known as "Mistah Saimin," turned the daily operations over to his daughter, Linda, and her husband, Aaron Lee in 1990. Shiro's grandson, Bryce Fujimoto, joined the management team in 2010. In 2009, Shiro’s won the Small Business Association’s Family-Owned Business of the Year Award. The three-generation family business stands as a testament that when passion meets perseverance, great things can happen.
Shiro’s Ewa Beach
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