He bought Puna Plantation Hawai‘i, a papaya farm, around the time of the eruption in the Kapoho area of Puna in 1959. Puna Plantation Hawai‘i Ltd became the parent company name for various entities; the most prominent dba bears his name.
Financial records note the company services include: management consulting services; eating place; grocery store Food and beverage industries, Beverage processing, Meat and poultry and seafood processing …
… Fruits and vegetables processing, Dairy and eggs processing, Grains and sugar and oils and fat processing, New business startup consultation services, Corporate mergers consultation services.
Of the 16 officers of parent company Puna Plantation Hawai‘i Ltd., three bear the family surname, but others also are family members.
The company “is held by the family. However, in our organization we do have … nonfamily executives who have been with our organization for a long time have been with (us) so long that we consider them family.” (Company President; Star Advertiser)
Back when the initial company was formed, he and a competitor had identical initials for their company names; merchandise for the competitor, K Tahara store, were marked ‘KT’ at Hilo harbor.
To avoid confusion of deliveries of the goods, his shipments were marked ‘KTA,’ to distinguish them (the ‘A’ has no other apparent significance.) The initials carried on as the company’s name.
Let’s look back …
Koichi, at the age of 17, left his home in Hiroshima, Japan, seeking the opportunities American offered. With the intention to get to San Francisco, he landed first in Hawai‘i on January 14, 1907. He stayed, and found work at Heʻeia Sugar Plantation at Kāne’ohe.
Taniyo, a woman he knew from Japan, arrived in the Islands a few years later; they were married July 7, 1913. A couple years later they moved to Hilo, where Koichi attended a school to learn English and bookkeeping. S Hata, a wholesaling company, hired Koichi as a bookkeeper after he finished his courses.
Their first son, Yukiwo, was born in 1916. That year also marked the founding of K Taniguchi Shoten (store) – a grocery and dry goods store Koichi and Taniyo started to support their son.
They bought a two-story building on Lihiwai Street in Waiākea along the banks of the Wailoa River. The Taniguchis lived upstairs and ran their store downstairs in approximately 500-square feet of space. (Kimura; HRGM)
In the beginning, Taniyo minded the store while watching the couple’s first-born son, Yukiwo. Koichi Taniguchi would deliver orders to Hilo families by bicycle, or customers could come pick up their orders.
Over time, the store’s name changed to K Taniguchi Store, K. Taniguchi Supermarket and, finally, KTA Super Stores. KTA employs about 800 people companywide, making it one of the largest private-sector employers on the island.
The first expansion was in 1939 when the Keawe street store opened in downtown Hilo. Eventually, the company expanded to its present size being a six-store, island wide supermarket chain.
The initial store in Waiākea was lost during the 1946 tsunami. After that operations were consolidated in the downtown Hilo store.
KTA opened in Kailua-Kona in 1959, under the banyan tree, just mauka of the Kailua pier. The Pū‘āinakō store, now its flagship store, on the southern outskirts of Hilo opened in 1966.
In response to the decline in sugar, and anticipating that sugar workers at closing plantations might stay in agriculture, KTA initiated the Mountain Apple Brand of grown-in-Hawai`i foods.
KTA has established many firsts in Hawaii’s grocery industry over the years, claiming to have been the state’s first supermarket to have an in-store bakery, at the Pū‘āinakō store; the first to install UPC bar code scanners at all checkouts; and the first to install and operate energy-saving photovoltaic systems, at its Waimea and Kailua-Kona stores.
Five of the company’s six stores are KTA Super Stores, while the sixth location is a sister-store called Waikoloa Village Market. (Lots of information here is from KTA Super Stores, Engle (Star Advertiser) and Kimura (HRGM.))
KTA now is led by third-generation chairman and CEO Barry Taniguchi and fourth-generation President and COO Toby Taniguchi. Along with third- and fourth-generation family members Lon Taniguchi, Maryan Miyada, Andrew Chun and Derek Taniguchi, they ensure the legacy of Koichi and Taniyo Taniguchi will continue.
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