Tropic Fish & Vegetable Center closed their retail outlet yesterday, March 31, 2008, to focus on their Wholesale distribution division, DBA Tropic Fish Hawaii
The headline in today’s Honolulu Star Bulletin read “Aloha Means Goodbye”, covering the epic final day of passenger flights for Aloha Airlines yesterday, March 31, 2008, ending an era of 62 years of inter-island service in Hawaii that began in 1946.
What you might also want to be aware of is that Tropic Fish & Vegetable Center in Ward Farmer’s Market also shut their doors yesterday for good, after being in business there for over 56 years.
While “aloha” does mean “goodbye”, fortunately for Tropic it also means “hello”.
Goodbye retail, hello wholesale. According to Hawaii Business Magazine, the family owners of Tropic Fish & Vegetable Center are closing their retail operation to restructure and focus on their more lucrative wholesale produce and seafood distribution division. They will be partnering with the parent company of Hilo Fish Company to form what will be named Tropic Fish Hawaii, effective today.
Kiyoshi and Katherine Tanoue opened Tropic Fish & Vegetable Center in 1951 as a small retail market, at a time when Farmer’s Market was just part of an obscure industrial warehouse cluster between “backroads” Auahi and Queen street. From these humble beginnings, they would slowly progress into becoming one of Hawaii’s top 250 businesses in the state.
This was taken just this past month, where the cracked seed station has already been removed from the countertop on the left, as well as many of the gandola shelving for the grocery items on the right.
Along with locally-supplied, reasonably-priced fresh island produce and seafood (as well as freezers-full of older stuff), it was a full-fledged mom ‘n pop convenience mini-mart, with everything from American to Asian groceries, snacks, cracked seed, beverages and liquor, to fresh-made sandwiches, musubi and bento lunches.
One of many ono and very affordable bento lunches from Tropics
An aunt of mine who used to operate a Hawaiian food catering business, relied on Tropics as a primary resource for specialty produce such as Luau leaves, taro root and sweet potato, where they could order in bulk quantities at discounted rates. They also often supplied fresh-caught island crab, tako and various types of fish needed for the menu.
Haili’s and Marukai still have 2 more years on their lease contract at Ward before any development changes are due to happen to the building they’re currently in. When that does happen, both Haili’s and Marukai employees have told me their plans are (hopefully) to relocate within a nearby area. Thank goodness.
As seen in this 2006 photo, now that Tropics is gone, all that will continue to remain today, of what was once a bustling farmer’s market in every sense of the word, are Marukai, Lin’s and Haili’s. Sharing a small corner space of Haili’s is Stanley’s Chicken Market.
They say change is inevitable, and it’s wonderful to hear Tropic has been able to reinvent themselves and go in new directions. Yet it’s also difficult to say goodbye to the “good ole days”. While it’s almost surreal to have “Aloha Airlines” and “good ole days” in one sentence or paragraph about a bygone era, unless something drastically happens soon, such will be the case. More than surreal, it’s absolutely heartbreaking.
Now that Tropic Fish & Vegetable Center is gone, Haili’s Hawaiian Foods must carry the torch as the last of the original tenants dating back to the “good ole days” at Ward Farmer’s Market.
P.S. To all the ohana of Aloha Airlines, my prayers and thoughts are with you.