Charlie and Kerry Umamoto
CMU & ASSOCIATES, INC.
At Bank of Hawaii, our commitment to our customers is a shared trust — one that springs from the confidence placed in us, and our determination to honor that trust in every aspect of our service. A passion for helping customers is what motivates our teams. Because our clients say it better than anyone, a few of them share how our services have improved their lives and/or businesses through the following profiles and videos.
Kerry Umamoto: CMU & Associates, Inc. (dba Hilo Fish Company, Kona Fish Company, Pacific Trade International, Tropic Fish Hawaii, Tropic Fish Kauai, and Tropic Fish Maui) is a worldwide importer and distributor of quality fresh and frozen seafood products. We are the largest distributor of fresh and frozen seafood in Hawaii.
The CMU family of companies provides customers with sustainable wild-caught and farm-raised seafood products from sources in over 25 different coastal regions around the world. And we use our sourcing and marketing roles to support responsible and sustainable fishing and farming practices.
The company includes the first company my father started, Hilo Fish Company, Inc.
Charlie Umamoto: Hilo is a town of about 46,284 people, and our corporate office is located here. I was born and raised on this island, and my initial staffers were part-timers from this area who worked their way up to perform important functions for the company. We have people who have been here for over 20 years.
Years ago I realized that, being in Hilo, I couldn’t build a business that would sustain itself in seafood. So in 2000, Kona Fish Company was started to service the supermarkets, hotels and restaurants on the West side of the Big Island. Today we probably handle about 90% of the fresh seafood on the island.
My main competition came from Honolulu, so in 2008 we bought Tropic Fish & Vegetable so that we were able to maintain a strong presence at the Honolulu Fish Auction. In 2011 we opened up on Maui, and in 2012 on Kauai. This gave us distribution facilities on all major islands to help serve our statewide customers. None of these things could have been possible without Bankoh’s support. Over the years they’ve been very supportive in helping us reach our goals of becoming a statewide distributor.
Kerry: We currently distribute seafood throughout Hawaii, the mainland U.S., and Canada. We also have offices in Los Angeles and New Jersey. We not only distribute fresh seafood out of Hawaii, we also import fresh and frozen seafood from around the world.
Charlie: We want to thank and recognize our employees for their efforts during the challenges of 2020. Their dedication helped the company sustain itself, and all that goes with it: preserving local jobs, and making food available to those in need through donations.
Earlier this year we sponsored food drives with Hilo Fish and Kona Fish Companies, through which we raised over $55,000 to give away free ‘ohana food boxes to those in need on Hawaii Island through The Food Basket, Inc., the island’s food bank.
Kerry: Even though Hilo Fish has been around since the early 1990s, during this pandemic it’s been a challenging experience. But it’s also taught us how to make the necessary adjustments to keep our businesses open so that we could continue to supply product to our communities.
Bank of Hawaii products and services have been instrumental during the pandemic. Their BBC (Bankoh Business Connections) allowed us to continue to do a lot of our business online: wire transfers, ACH, money transfers, etc.
We worked closely with Amy Honda and Roberta Chu on the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan application, and they worked very diligently to get us the funds quickly. I believe we got the required documents to them on a Friday, and the application was approved on the following Tuesday. Now we are working with Amy on the forgiveness part of the PPP.
Charlie: On a weekly basis, we wire substantial funds to our international and domestic suppliers. We are glad Bank of Hawaii has a system in place for us to facilitate these transactions, which also helps to identify and prevent fraudulent transactions.
Before Keene Fujinaka became the Director of East Hawaii Market & Commercial Banking Center at Bank of Hawaii, he was our contact for about nine years. He and Roberta Chu knew everything about Hilo Fish Company and our other companies. I used to ask Keene to come in every week to keep him updated with various projects so that if I needed the bank’s help, he would stay well informed. He’s done a great job in helping us grow the business.
Personal and professional connections really matter. With Bankoh’s guidance through our ups and downs, I know that we’re in a stronger financial position today than we were last year. Coming from a small town like Hilo and competing on a national and international scale, we couldn’t have done it without the bank’s support.
Today the good name of Hilo Fish Company on the mainland and internationally is not enough. We have to continually come up with new ideas on how we’re going to serve our customers. As business starts to turn around, we need to apply the lessons that we’ve learned in 2020. We’ve learned we can’t do all the things that we’ve done in the past. These lessons have made us become better “business people.”
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