With a recently announced leadership transition, Uwajimaya will continue to be a treasured Northwest icon.
THE Moriguchi family’s long success with its Uwajimaya stores is a remarkable story.
With a recently announced leadership transition, from the family’s second to third generation, the Northwest will continue to benefit from this treasured icon.
A reminder of the Uwajimaya story is timely as some leaders in the United States are losing sight of the invaluable contributions immigrants make to our nation’s success.
The company started in Tacoma in 1928 when a young Japanese immigrant, Fujimatsu Moriguchi, started selling fish cakes, rice and other staples out of a truck to Japanese laborers in logging and fishing camps around Puget Sound.
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This entrepreneurship continued until his family was sent to an internment camp in 1942.
They persevered, returned and opened a Seattle grocery and fish-cake manufacturing company in 1945. A successful shop at the World’s Fair in 1962 helped expand their business to non-Japanese customers.
Fujimatsu’s son, Tomio, became chief executive in 1964 and oversaw expansion in Seattle and into Bellevue and Beaverton, Ore. Along the way he became an influential member of the business community and supporter of numerous community organizations.
Growth continued after Fujimatsu’s daughter — Tomio’s sister — Tomoko Moriguchi-Matsuno became chief executive in 2007. Under her leadership, Uwajimaya expanded to Renton, opened a new Bellevue store and began developing a new store concept in Seattle’s South Lake Union.
Uwajimaya now employs nearly 500 people and draws legions of shoppers and tourists.
The company recently announced that Tomio Moriguchi retired as chairman and his daughter, 40-year-old Denise Moriguchi, will succeed her aunt as chief executive next month.
The company spent years working on a transition plan, and its new CEO competed for the job against outside candidates.
In addition to her lineage and retail background, Denise Moriguchi brings qualifications including brand-management experience at Bayer HealthCare and a master’s in business administration from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
Continuing to refresh the business should help the beloved brick-and-mortar company withstand competition from online retailers, particularly Amazon.com. Uwajimaya’s key advantage is the unique experience its physical stores provide.
Meanwhile Denise Moriguchi is already thinking about the fourth generation’s potential — her 4 ½-year-old daughter already wants to come to work with mom. We look forward to that chapter in this ongoing story.