web analytics

Reader’s Corner: The Companies We Keep

If you’ve spent any significant time living in or visiting the islands, or just have a fond interest in the history of Hawaii’s businesses and people who drive it, The Companies We Keep is one book you MUST read. Or even better yet, own and kept on your coffee table or office desk as a conversation piece.

In print since 2004, this book is jam-packed from cover to cover with absolutely fascinating stories and facts about the history of Hawaii’s best known companies, from past to present. From hole-in-the-wall mom & pop shops to big corporations. Retail, restaurants, hospitality, media, entertainment, education and more. As told by the founders, their heirs, family, friends and those who work in their respective industry, through research by author Bob Sigall and his students at Hawaii Pacific University.

Did you ever wonder…

• Why did they name it Zippy’s?
• Why does Lex Brodie say “thank you very much”?
• Who is Robert’s Hawaii’s Rabbit logo waving to?

The answer to these questions, and many, many more can all be found here.

Following introductions, a “Hawaii Business Timeline” chapter starts things off….

Next is a chapter on “The Meaning of 260 Hawaii Company Names”, where you’ll learn exactly why it’s called “Zippy’s”, “Town & Country” Surf Shop and “W&M” Bar-B-Q Burgers.

The following chapter, titled “Extraordinary Hawaii Companies” makes up the thick of the book and goes further into detail behind the history of companies such as ABC Stores, City Mill, C.S. Wo, Charlie’s Taxi, E.K. Fernandez, KC Drive Inn, Spenceliff restaurants and Victoria Ward, just to name a few.

The remaining chapters cover Hawaii’s TV & Radio industry, Schools & Universities, concluding with games, lists & quizzes (and resources, credits & index, of course).

Here’s a quick, selective photographic “tour” of what you’ll find throughout the pages…

Here’s the Author, Bob Sigall…

The book is easy to read, encouraging you to thumb through it in search (or simply refer to the index) of a specific business of interest, and is well-written, edited and categorized. While the photography included on just about every page is a huge plus! I might even go on the limb and suggest Bob come out with a full color, glossy hard cover pictorial edition of The Companies We Keep!

There might possibly be a few bits of information here and there that you may find aren’t completely accurate based on the best of your knowledge of a particular establishment, but for the most part, it seems everyone “did their homework” and researched enough to get the facts in CWK straight. Besides, sometimes not even a business founder’s own children may know the “whole” story!

Bob was so kind to hand deliver an autographed copy of his second book to me and my boss at our office recently. He also gave me full permission to photograph and use content (including the beautiful cover shot, which he emailed to me) for this review. Mahalo, Bob!

With over 400 pages of fascinating information about 450 of Hawaii’s best known companies spanning the past century, all rolled into one handy book, The Companies We Keep is both enlightening and entertaining, and will be an invaluable resource in your library for years and generations to come. A must-have.

The perfect coffee table conversation piece!

The Companies We Keep
Amazing Stories About 450 of Hawaii’s Best Known Businesses
By Bob Sigall and his students at Hawaii Pacific University

Also available at all Hawaii Borders, Barnes & Noble, Bookends, Bestsellers, Helena’s Hawaiian Food, Boulevard Saimin, Gyotaku, Hungry Lion, Highway Inn, and Flamingo Pearl City.

The Tasty Island rating:

(5) Superb. A must-have!

Related Links:
Reader’s Corner: The Companies We Keep 2

In a follow-up installment coming soon, I’ll review The Companies We Keep 2!…


5 thoughts on “Reader’s Corner: The Companies We Keep

  • June 18, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Oh seriously…first you torture me with all those ono food pictures and mouth-watering descriptions, and now you have to round it out and just make me homesick for everything else?!? I can’t order a plate lunch over the internet, but at least I can buy this book. Thanks for the heads up, love the blog (drool and occasional tears notwithstanding).

  • June 19, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Very cool! I think these types of books provide an invaluable record of our culture history, especially as Hawaii continues to change and a lot of the local landmarks begin to shut down (or have already shut down).

    Growing up in Honolulu, I took a lot of the local institutions for granted, but now that I’m older and live on the mainland, it saddens me when they go away. The last time I was visiting family (this past holiday season) I really missed taking my kids to KC Drive-In in Kapahulu for a waffle dog and a bowl of oxtail soup, served by the good-natured aunty waitresses. Going to Zippy’s was fun but, as my 11-year-old son observed, “This is a chain, isn’t it?”

  • June 20, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Wonderful article, and the book looks fantastic. Jenny’s right; we took so much for granted growing up. Like Kau Kau Korner for instance.

    Not so much fun when they’re a chain. Gimme da old Mom and Pop places!

  • June 21, 2008 at 8:28 am

    Cecelia, Jenny and Mokihana,

    If you get the book, I can almost guarantee you’ll really enjoy the stories told.. especially the mom and pop shops. Those are my favorite, too. This book is like a plate lunch of history. Sometimes chicken skin stuff. And once you start reading (and looking at da’ pictahz), you don’t wanna’ stop!

    Bob, glad you liked the review!

  • June 24, 2008 at 6:52 am

    Thanks for the great review, Pomai. It sounds like you had as much fun reading it as I had researching and writing it.

    I should mention that the first book was an accident. It grew out of an assignment I gave my students at Hawaii Pacific University to meet with business owners.

    They brought me so many interesting stories it finally occurred to me that we could publish them. Maybe it’s true in every community, but we found that nearly every Hawaii company had a great story that the public was unaware of.

    And I’m glad you liked the “pictahz.” I spent about eight months collecting them for each book. I have over 600 in both books.

    Cecilia mentioned plate lunches. I had a lot of fun tracking down their origins (lunches taken into the fields by plantation workers.

    The real twist was how macaroni salad came to the table, so to speak. It was a sensation at the Delmonico restaurant in New York City 100 years ago and brought here by chefs who came to work at Hawaii’s new hotels. The sensation died out everywhere but here.

    Jenny mentions KC Drive in. (K)napp and (C)hristensen opened Hawaii’s first drive-in in 1929 and sold it to their cook, Jiro Asato for $100 during the Great Depression. He didn’t have $100 so they took $10 a month for ten months.

    Anyway, I’m working on Book 3, and if you have any great stories, send them to me!


    Bob Sigall


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: