1979: Masakazu Shimoda
Masakazu Shimoda was born in 1911 in Camp 6, Puunene, Maui. His father founded Maui Shokai, one of the “big 5” Japanese stores in Kahului. The store was patronized by mostly Filipino kompang workers who were only paid after their crops were harvested. Masakazu eventually took over operations of the store with his brothers.
MS: My father was the first to trust Filipino. See, we had Nihonjin Shokai [Japanese Mercantile], Onishi Shokai, and we had [Kobayashi,] Ikeda, and then, Paia Mercantile. Paia Nihonjin Shokai, they used to call. That’s five there. With us, makes six. Lot of competition.
WN: Five of you were all in . . .
MS: In Kahului.
WN: You all sold the same type of merchandise?
MS: Yeah, only we sold bicycles. That, nobody sold. Then we sold RCA phonograph, which nobody sold. I think that’s the only difference, though. Then, we went into the Filipino business. We gave up Japanese. Only few handful of Japanese customers.
WN: What did your father do to get the trust of the Filipinos?
MS: We had a good Filipino salesman. He's the one. Not my father. The salesman. Those days had--what you call-- “kompang money." That's, you know, they take care of the field.
WN: Every two years?
MS: Yeah, they take care the field by themself. Then, after harvest, if you had good tonnage, you make good money. Those people, we had to carry. I know some of them, we carried for about nine, eight hundred dollars those days.
WN: In two years' time, while they were waiting for their cane to be harvested.
MS: Pay, yeah. Then, we collected our money.
WN: So, sometimes their bill would be $800?
MS: Oh, yeah. I remember, $800. They trusted our store so much, they put their life savings with us. Every payday, put savings. So, we were just like the bank--passbook. Keep their accounting. That's why we could carry those people for two years to pay us. If not, we cannot carry. We had that extra cash to carry them along. You try get, maybe, fifty people waiting for kompang money. You can't pay the wholesaler in the end. '
WN: Did the other stores, like Ikeda and Kobayashi, do that kind of thing, too?
MS: Save money? You mean, people save? No, the Japanese didn't have those savings accounts. They would go to the bank. The newcomers, Filipinos, they were saying Maui Shokai safer than the bank. (Laughs) My father said we had quite a sum of that Filipino money saved. But he said not one they fail to pay back. He boasted, he said, “We paid everybody every cent.”
WN: Did you have kompang people not pay you?
MS: No. Most of them pay. Kompang people, they about the most trustworthy because, after all, you are carrying them for almost two years. Of course, if they short of income, then you have to carry them for another two years. But if it wasn't for Filipinos, I think maybe Maui Shokai gone already. Too much competition.