Written by The Business Journal Staff
Owner | Central Fish Co.
Bachelor’s Degree in business management – Fresno Pacific University
What we do: Passionate people selling great stuff to great customers.
What is it about Central Fish Co. that’s kept the business going when so many others in Chinatown were devastated?
My Great Uncle, Akira Yokomi, created a legacy of loyal customers. We also have employees that have worked at the store for over 20 years. We are the only Japanese grocery store left in the Valley. We focus on sourcing quality seafood for our retail and wholesale customers. We specialize in things many people don’t get into.
How have you worked to preserve your uncle’s legacy in not only the store, but also in the district?
In 2005, Fresno Unified dedicated a school in my Uncle’s name. Akira Yokomi Elementary in Downtown Fresno, next to Community Regional Medical Center, was special because my Aunt and Uncle didn’t have any children. They now call that area the Yokomi neighborhood of Fresno. On the other hand, keeping Chinatown relevant in the minds of Fresnans will always be never ending.
What has it meant for you and your family to possess Central Fish Co.’s original location (Nippon Building No. 1) again?
Since we took over possession in March 2019, it’s beginning to soak in. Our renovation plans are almost complete, and excitement is building. My family feels that by restoring the building with the 1940s feel it already has, more investments will be made in Chinatown. My Aunt and Uncle would be so proud.
What are some of the biggest advantages Chinatown has as revitalization efforts take place?
The State of California. Strategic Growth Council. When the State gave $70 millions dollars to improve the area near High Speed Rail, it attacked the conscious disinvestment the City has given Chinatown and the Westside of Fresno, created through racism. I believe we now live in a day and age where #ChinatownMatters.
How have you and the other businesses in Chinatown worked together to stay in business while the wall is up?
The Chinatown Fresno Foundation formed in 2018. Without a non-profit organization in Chinatown since 2009, a group of property and business owners decided that a unified voice was needed. We’ve battled road construction, homeless problems, security issues and other things the neighborhood needs. We now hold quarterly community meetings and events to give updates on Chinatown.
Do you believe business will improve with the reopening of the Mono Street entrance at the end of the month?
I hope so. The temporary opening of Mono Street is just a precursor to shutting down Ventura street. All this road construction has already hurt us tremendously. I really want Tulare Street to get re-opened.
Do you believe the Japanese-American community might return if this effort succeeds?
There’s a push to honor Kern Street, in Chinatown, with a Japanese influence.Similar on how Downtown honored a portion of M Street Audra McDonald Way. I pray that the Japanese-American community comes back to the place where they originally called home.
Is the Doizaki family looking to purchase any more property in Chinatown?
Anything is possible. The properties we did purchase all connect around Central Fish. I don’t think we’ll stray too far from our headquarters, but if another property adjacent to one we own pops up, then we’ll strongly consider it
What role will the new congregation in the Buddhist temple play in bringing back Chinatown and in Central Fish Co.’s operations?
The Buddhist Temple is now a monastery for Burmese monks. There’s only a small population of Burmese in Fresno. They do plan on having community events, which would bring their temple members from all over California. The fact that the building is occupied brings a sense of relief to Chinatown. I started buying items from Myanmar (also known as Burma) to sell in my store but not much has moved yet.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
My first job was working at Central Fish. Even before I was a teenager, my parents would make me help during the Christmas and New Year season. I went from bagging groceries my first year to skinning catfish by the time I was a teenager. I learned that I loved the store.
What was the best business advice you’ve ever received?
The sky is not the limit…Reach for the stars!