1979: George Guerrero
George Guerrero was born in Ilocos Norte, Philippines in 1909, and left for Hawaii when he was 17. He was a live-in clerk at the Nagatani Store, then worked at the Camp 5 Store before opening his own shop in Wailuku in 1946. He ran the Guerrero Store for 24 years, retiring and closing up shop in 1970.
WN: When did you first think about working in a store?
GG: I was encouraged by my friend who was working in the store. That changed my mind that I go and work in the store. Then he was explaining to me that you stay in the shade. The only thing you do is carry 100-pound rice, 100 pound of feed, you know? So, he tell me, "I don't mind because I can do that." Stay in the shade. And he told me, "Rain or shine, you can work because you stay inside the store." That's why that encouraged me to go work.
WN: What was the name of the store that you worked in?
GG: That was Nagatani Store in Waikapu, Wailuku.
WN: Did you continue to live in the Puunene Camp while you worked in the store?
GG: No, they had a house for me. They gave me the house where I was staying. I did not pay anything on my board. See, because I just stay in that house and go eat in the store. They give me free food.
WN: In 1946, you started Guerrero Store in Wailuku.
GG: Yes. I had started in that year, 1946.
WN: Why did you choose Wailuku as your site of your store?
GG: I chose Wailuku because Wailuku is close to the Filipino Camp, where people can come and buy by walking, without using their car.
WN: What made you decide to start your own business?
GG: At that time, I was working in the plantation store. I know the prices of the wholesale, and I know the percentage of retail. So, I was thinking, if I go make my store and I can sell so much, I know I can make it, because I had been working hard in the plantation store. If I work hard the same way as I do--I will do, I should say--then I know I can make it. That's why, it makes my mind that I try my luck to make my own business.
WN: At that time, had lot of plantation stores, and then, had lot of Japanese-run stores, yeah? Did you think that you could get your percentage of customers?
GG: At that time, I know. I could get plenty of them because I told them, ''The price that we sell in the store will be the same price I will sell you. You can compare, and if you don't want, well, it's up to you, but I greatly appreciate if you will patronize on me." So, they tell, "If the same price, no problem. We buy from you." So, at that time, I have all different nationality. I have Filipinos, I have Japanese, I have Chinese, Hawaiian--all kind of ethnic.
WN: All the way up until 1970, you were doing that?
GG: Yeah. Uh huh.
WN: Did you ever want your sons or daughters to continue the store?
GG: Well, I tried to convince them that one of them should carry over, but they said the hours they putting in there, it's too long, and they did not want the hours, it's too long. So, they want to work only eight hours, and go home, and that's all. (Laughter)