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2012 Founders & Visionaries

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Many of Hawaii’s companies started with a visionary idea, or an individual whose determination and acumen built them in to what we know today. From humble beginnings to looking towards the future, the companies featured in this section are a testament to longevity and accomplishment. Find out how this group of companies got started and built in to the successes they are today in this latest edition of the Founders & Visionaries series. 

Watanabe Floral INC.

Express Your Feelings Through Flowers

“We’re not your typical flower shop,” says company president Russell Watanabe. “We always remind ourselves that although we are in the flower business, in essence, we are in the business of helping people express their feelings. We are in the feelings business.”

Watanabe Floral has been helping people express their feelings since 1945, when Russell’s father, a research chemist, started Watanabe Floral upon returning to Hawaii after World War II. “During the war, my father thought a lot about my mom. This got him thinking of all the other romances that would need to be made up after the war,” Watanabe says. “He saved money as a soldier and along with his parents he started growing roses as his daily job.”

The wonderful Watanabe Floral ohana.

Nearly 30 years later, in 1974, Russell joined the family business full-time, and they added a wholesaling division in which they sold flowers grown by other people. “We started with a box of carnations and were surprised how quickly it sold out. We started asking the florists who bought our roses what they would like us to bring back, and it started expanding,” Watanabe says. “We were growers and wholesalers, and in the mid-’80s we started very quietly selling flowers to the general public.”

Now, the company continues as wholesalers, supplying products to such commercial entities as Sam’s Club, Walmart, Foodland, Costco, Target and a range of local flower shops, businesses and organizations. Watanabe Floral has also continued to serve the general public with its expansive retail store in Kalihi. Although they stopped growing the flowers themselves in 2008, Watanabe believes that the decades of experience as growers gives them an edge. “We understand all aspects of the industry, having been involved in all of them at one time,” he says.

The family-run Watanabe Floral employs an ohana of 60, including 10 designers. “We have quite a bit of depth and breadth of products and services,” Watanabe says. “We have the capacity to meet almost any need that customers have.”

But beyond the flowers, the deeply engrained philosophy of helping people is at the root of what Watanabe Floral is all about. “People come to us to help express their feelings, and we try to really have that deeply engrained in everything that we do. It really helps us to keep in mind why customers come to see us,” Watanabe says. “We feel extremely fortunate and blessed that the public has accepted our services and what we try to do.”



Watanabe Floral, Inc.
1607 Hart Street
Honolulu, HI 96817

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