Due to the world-wide Covid-19 pandemic the Nikkei Kigyo
Recognition Banquet honoring Yamada & Sons (established in 1925) and Café 100 (established in 1946) has been rescheduled for Friday, August 7. Since it's still not safe for us to meet in person, it will be held in studio and broadcast live on Na Leo TV, channel 53 at 5:30 pm. We’d like to share highlights of these two companies...their determination, ingenuity, perseverance, hardwork, and gaman. “We’re pleased to honor Yamada & Sons, run by Shelbylynn Yamada, great-granddaughter of founder Bob Yamada, and Cafe 100, now headed by Richard Miyashiro’s granddaughter Mari Kobayashi Leung. It’s especially fitting in 2020 that both companies are run by women,” said event co-chair Jan Higashi.
YAMADA & SONS, INC.- Robert “Bob” Yamada came from humble beginnings as one of 12 children growing up in a Japanese immigrant plantation family. He quit high school a month before graduation to take over his father’s trucking business, founding Yamada Transfer, Inc. in 1925. Three years later, he married Emma, who was part Hawaiian. They serviced the many “mom and pop” stores in the plantation communities along the Hamakua coast between Hilo and Laupahoehoe. Bob’s quickness to react to disaster and problems helped the company to grow. During WWII when Americans of Japanese ancestry were not allowed on the docks, he would juggle his workforce so the workers of other races took the trucks onto the docks. He secured major hauling jobs and got contracts to haul sugar and molasses to Hilo and to the Paauilo Railroad Terminal. Yamada Transfer had a number of firsts to their credit. They were the first trucking firm on the Big Island to bring in semi-trailers to haul bagged sugar from Kohala to Paauilo and to return with supplies for the Marines based in Waimea and also the first to bring in the big ten-wheelers common on the island’s roadways today. At the end of the war, Bob moved the company to Hilo. When the tsunami struck in 1946, the railroad terminal and many of the railroad bridges along the coastline were destroyed. Gasoline for the communities along the coastline had been hauled by the railroad, but now that the railroad was gone there was great need for someone to haul fuel. Bob helped design the required equipment and almost overnight Hilo Iron Works built the tanker trailers that enabled Bob to respond and fill the need. Diversifying into construction was one of Bob’s major moves. The company also expanded into mining, producing various kinds of aggregate as well as hot asphaltic concrete for road construction and ready-mix concrete for residential and commercial structures. Eventually, it was decided to focus their efforts and honed their skills in mining, construction materials manufacturing and road construction. After Bob passed away in 1979, Emma became the president until 1983, followed by their son Donald and presently, by great-granddaughter Shellbylnn and other members of the Yamada family. Yamada and Sons, Inc. continue Bob and Emma’s tradition of service. In addition to employing about 50 people, they are committed to providing affordable building materials for Big Island families and community. CAFÉ 100 - Richard Seiji Miiyashiro was born in Hakalau. He met his wife Evelyn Matsue Oshiro in Honolulu. Both were nisei whose parents had come from Okinawa to work in the sugar plantation. They were married in 1944 shortly after Richard returned from serving with the 100th Battalion in Italy during WWII. After returning home, Richard decided to open a family style restaurant on January 21, 1946 and named it Café 100 as a tribute to the 100th Battalion. It was located on the corner of Kamehameha Avenue and Manono Street in Waiakea Town, the café was a regular hangout for fishermen, longshoremen, the Waiakea Pirates and, of course, Richard’s fellow veterans. Three months after it opened, the April 1, 1946 tsunami hit Hilo and the restaurant sustained significant damage. In 1960, Richard built the “restaurant of his dreams” just past the original location on Manono Street. The Grand Opening was on May 2, 1960. Three weeks later, another devastating tsunami struck and completely destroyed the new building. The Miyashiro family lived next door to the restaurant. They were at home when the waves lifted their house and carried it several blocks up the road. They realized that the restaurant building had saved their lives.
The Miyashiros lost their business, their home and most of their belongings, but they did not give up. Richard worked for a short while as a cook at the Volcano House, then took over the Naomi’s Fountain site at Kilauea Avenue, where they family lived upstairs. When the property next door at 969 Kilauea Avenue became available for purchase from the State of Hawaii. The couple researched a new concept called the drive-in, where customers took home meals in disposable plates. On August 24, 1962, the third incarnation of Café 100 was born. It was the first drive-in in Hilo to serve plate lunches, including their popular beef stew and local favorite loco moco. Today, Café 100 sells approximately 10,000 loco mocos a month The family has trademarked “Café 100, home of the Loco Moco.” On August 20, 1964, Richard Miyashiro was presented with the Small Businessman of the Year award for the western region of the United States By President Lyndon Johnson at the White House.. This was a proud moment for a businessman who had only an 8th grade education. After Richard’s passing in 1982, his daughters, Gail Miyashiro and Kay Shintani took over the business with their mother, Evelyn, although retired, remained involved in the business. In 2014 Café 100 welcomed the third generation when oldest grandson and namesake, Richard Kobayashi took over the business; followed by his sisterMari Kobayashi Leung in 2019, continuing the legacy which Richard and Evelyn Miyashiro began as a tiny diner called Café 100 in Waiakea Town.