A HISTORY OF SUISAN COMPANY, LTD.
On September 17, 1907, Torazuki Hayashi and Hitaro Egawa formed a cooperative named Sui San Kabushiki Kaisha. Kamezo Matsuno and other peddlers and fishermen became associates and purchased the entire business of R.A. Lucas, which included the unexpired lease of newly established Gehr Fish Market. Controversy loomed over this business transaction due to many Japanese fishermen committing to sell their catch to the Gehr Fish Market then later changing to support the new Sui San Kabushiki Kaisha. Apparently, this matter was settled in the courts and Sui San was in full swing.
After the end of World War II, and just as Japanese fishermen received permission from the military to resume fishing, the 1946 tsunami destroyed most of the Japanese fishing fleet. The destructive tsunami also claimed many homes and businesses along Hilo Bay and the Waiakea area, and Suisan was destroyed once again. Already set back by the military seizure of their property during the war, the shareholders of Suisan had to focus on rebuilding their once prosperous business all over again.
In 1954, Suisan Kabushiki Kaisha, Limited changed its name to Suisan Company, Limited.
During the 1950s, the improved fishing methods and technological advances, along with improved shipping methods, made larger catch sizes posible and increased exportation of island fish to the Neighbor Islands of Hawaii and the Mainland U.S.
Suisan’s newly formed Frozen Foods Division was also growing rapidly. In 1955, Suisan Company, Limited purchased the property formerly used by the Nichibei Shuzo Kabushiki Kaisha, Limited sake brewery at 1965 Kamehameha Avenue. With the acquisition of this property, Suisan also moved its main office to what is now known as the Matsuno Enterprises Building and constructed additional warehouse facilities to accommodate its growing distribution business.
In 1960 a large tsunami devastated the Hilo Bay area and demolished the old Waiakea Town. The Suisan Fish Market once again suffered much damage, but overcame yet another tragedy. Because of the wide-spread devastation, almost all of the surrounding homes and businesses were relocated to other parts of town outside of the tsunami zone. However, Suisan’s Fish Market Division remained at the mouth of the Wailoa River.
1967 brought another major change to Suisan. After 60 years of working for Suisan Company, Limited, Mr. Kamezo Matsuno retired as its President. His son, Mr. Rex Yoshio Matsuno succeeded him as President. It was from this time that Suisan broadened its horizons even more, substantially increasing its storage facilities for frozen, chill, and dry merchandise.
1976 saw Suisan open its Kona-Suisan operation in the old Kona industrial area next to the Old Kona Airport on Kaiwi Street. Kona-Suisan primarily distributed seafood caught in the Kona area, although it also served as a will-call location for the convenience of Suisan’s west-Hawaii accounts.
From 1970 to the 1990’s Suisan saw even more rapid growth, requiring it to greatly expand its food distribution warehouse facilities. In 1983 and 1985, Suisan built two jumbo freezers, an additional chill storage, and a dry goods storage, giving Suisan the largest food distribution facility on the Big Island of Hawaii. With the development of numerous luxury resort hotels along the Kohala Coast and the ever growing residential areas of Hilo, Puna, Kohala, and Kona, Suisan experienced a staggering average annual growth rate of 17-18%. Additionally, the new facilities improved working conditions and efficiency by allowing a larger, centralized inventory which reduced errors, damages, and losses. It also provided emergency back up and longer storage times of inventory, as well as public cold storage space that was in high demand.
In October 2000, Suisan’s Kona operation moved from Kaiwi Street to a new facility in the Kaloko Light Industrial Park. The new facility has a larger and more spacious office, a freezer storage, and a large chilled warehouse designed for its Produce Division. Suisan’s Hilo and Kona Produce operations were consolidated in Kona due to direct air shipments from the U.S. mainland and the majority of its business coming from the resort hotels on the Kona and Kohala Coasts.
2004 saw Suisan’s most current expansion in the starting of its own Non-foods Division. Suisan’s Non-food Division offers its customers disposable products for food service, as well as products for sanitation and janitorial needs. Today, it also distributes ware-washing and other cleaning chemicals. Suisan’s goal is to be a one stop shop for its food distribution customers, and its new focus is to supply non-foods to “non-traditional” customers such as doctors’ offices, cleaning companies, and other businesses that do not purchase food products.
In 2007, Suisan Company Limited celebrated its 100th year of providing excellent service to the guests and residents of the Big Island of Hawaii. Now a major part of Big Islander's lives, Suisan looks to continue providing quality goods and products to their customers.