About Garden Exchange
The Garden Exchange was started in 1964 by Noboru and Sachiko Ikeda. Prior to opening their own business, the Ikedas had worked for the Hilo Farmers Exchange, where Noboru assisted ginger growers in shipping their excess plants.
Born and raised in Japan, Noboru came to Hawaii in 1924 at the age of 18. He attended union boarding schools at Lahainaluna High School and later taught Japanese language school in Puna. After World War II, he worked in the sugar cane fields where he eventually became ill, the reason for his switch in employment to Hilo Farmers Exchange.
Sachiko Ikeda was a housewife before joining her husband at the Hilo Farmers Exchange in 1949. She had no prior farming experience, except for raising chickens and selling fruit while caring for her four children.
In 1964 at the age of 58, Noboru was released from the Hilo Farmers Exchange because of his age. Sachiko Ikeda, however was not fired. She later left the company after they let her husband go.
The Ikeda’s departure from Hilo Farmers Exchange was a blessing in disguise. With the financial help of Noboru’s older brother and Sachiko’s younger sister and her husband, the Ikedas had the starting capital for new venture-the Garden Exchange. Sachiko noted back in a 1993 interview, that it could not have been done without the help of family.
The company started out as small enterprise—a husband and wife team—which continued to specialize in the existing ginger shipment business. As the years passed, Noboru realized that farmers needed fertilizers and chemicals for their plants and added those items to the store inventory. Little by little the Garden Exchange grew. Coincidentally, Hilo Farmers Exchange closed down a short time later.
EXPANSION OF GARDEN EXCHANGE
In 1984, the Ikedas decided to expand on Keawe Street , where there were five little shops which were abandoned for about five years. “There was the Okabe Seed Store, a meat market, a coffee shop, a barber shop and a Filipino restaurant. We bought out the whole block including the old Farmers Building,” recalls Sachiko Ikeda.
According to Sachiko, they owe their good fortune to God and the teachings of their church, Seicho No Ie—which means “Infinite Home.” “The church promotes a good philosophy of life.” Ikeda says. She also credited their ability to get through the rough times to their strict and conservative upbringing. “My husband received only $65 a month for teaching Japanese,” said Ikeda. “We had no debts and we made it through somehow. Reaching the day-to-day goal wasn’t very easy. My father was strict, so I learned how to manage my money. Noboru had a very hard life in Japan so we were both very tolerant. You just have to live the best you can with the least amount of stress and don’t give up,” said Sachiko.
In the early 70’s, grandson Jeff Enriques started working part-time at the Garden Exchange during the summers. He graduated in 1979 from the University of Manoa with a degree in business and a minor in agriculture. “You can’t beat the hands on
experience,” Enriques says. “Even with a college degree, I started at the bottom. You really understand and appreciate what the workers go through.”
In 1980, upon returning to Hilo, Jeff went full-time at Garden Exchange. In 1991, Jeff was adopted by his grandparents so that the Ikeda name would be carried on. Jeff Enriques-Ikeda is the son of the Ikeda’s oldest daughter, Betty Enriques, who retired from the Department of Accounting and General Services (DAGS). In 1996, Jeff’s wife Tammy joined him at the store, creating once again -a husband and wife team.
Being a part of this family owned business does not end with Jeff. The equipment shop was run by Lee Enriques--Jeff’s father, for the past 20 years after his retirement from the Fire Department. Before joining the staff full-time, Lee would helped out on his days off and on weekends. He will soon retire once again from the equipment shop and the baton will be passed on to Jeff’s older brother Russell who will provide you with the same professional service and knowledge. Another member of the Ikeda family, Tracy Akau who is Sachiko’s niece, also helps with the day-to-day operations as the office manager for Garden Exchange.
GARDEN EXCHANGE TODAY
Today, the store is now managed by Jeff Enriques-Ikeda and Stanton Deguchi, who has been an employee with Garden Exchange for 20 plus years. Together, these two men possess a wealth of knowledge when it comes to farming and gardening in Hawaii and are available to answer all your gardening questions along with 15 other employees.
Garden Exchange now sells everything from seeds, pots, soil, and fertilizers to potted plants and garden tools. They expanded their power equipment department and not only sell quality residential and commercial power equipment, but they also set it up and show you how to operate it properly, before you leave the shop. You can buy with confidence at Garden Exchange! The pro’s at Garden Exchange can recommend the proper tools that fit you and your job and their motto is to service what they sell.
Jeff credits the success of the Garden Exchange to his grandfather Noboru’s vision. “He was advanced for his time and had insight. He was all for machines and was willing to try anything,” says Jeff.
Noboru Ikeda got his wish--his dream was to purchase the piece of property where Garden Exchange now stands and start a business. Garden Exchange has come a long way from their humble beginnings and Grandpa Noboru would be very proud to have come this far.