2010 Smallbiz Success Awards

2010 Smallbiz Success Awards

(page 4 of 8)

Photo:Olivier Koning. Michael Tokunaga, owner of S. Tokunaga Store,
runs it with the same principles set by his grandfather.

Family-Business Award:

S. Tokunaga Store

Fishing Store with a Special Lure

S. Tokunaga is a fishing store with heart, hustle and almost a century of history on the Big Island. Named for its founder, Sumie Tokunaga, it’s been part of the Hilo community for 87 years.

Launched in 1920 by a young immigrant plantation worker who left Japan seeking broader horizons, S. Tokunaga Store has survived recessions, tsunamis, earthquakes and changing mores. It retains a strong sense of history – here you can still find traditional Japanese fishing tabis – but has also joined the 21st century’s technological revolution.

Along with ageless advice about lures and lines, rods and reels, its Web site offers deft fishing tips from a fourth-generation family member, 9-year-old Mykala Tokunaga, including how to tie a great clinch knot – with helpful pictures.

But there is much more to the Tokunaga story. After tsunamis in 1946 and 1960 destroyed the store at its original bayfront location in downtown Hilo, the family relocated and rebuilt – first to Keawe Street and then Hoku Street, where it is today.

Now concentrating on fishing and diving supplies, it carries everything from wetsuits to a wide variety of lures for local fish. For those days when you can’t go fishing, it also sells hunting, dart and archery supplies.

Michael Tokunaga, the third-generation owner, has done much to expand the store’s reach since taking over from his mother, Ethel Tokunaga, in 1991. That includes: getting involved in a mono-filament recycling program dedicated to cleaning up waterways; volunteering as an angler with the Division of Aquatic Resources Ulua Tagging Project, which is gathering data to assess the near-shore ulua and papio fishery; and launching the Ulua Challenge, a tournament designed to promote family outings and to educate fishermen on caring for their recreational fisheries. The three-and-a-half-day tournament is the largest casting tournament in the state and incorporates a tagging and barbless hook division to educate fishermen about how to release surplus catch.

“We try to push these projects heavily before our tournaments so that they build up databases,” says Mike Tokunaga. “It will also teach the next generation to ‘fish smart.’”

Tokunaga says the store’s philosophy hasn’t changed over the years and today the family still hews to principles set more than 80 years ago by his grandfather, and followed by his mother Ethel when she ran the operation from 1960 to 1991.

“When my grandfather Sumie Tokunaga started the business in 1920, his main philosophy was to give customers the products they want at very reasonable prices,” he says. “Treat them well, get to know them on a first name basis and your customers will always come back.”

The store is also involved with the high school Delta Epsilon Chi employment partnership, which helps develop leadership skills in young people by providing opportunities to work while earning school credits.


-By Beverly Creamer


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