Blind Vendors Ohana, Inc.

Friday, October 17, 2008

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Blind Vendors Ohana, Inc. came about after fighting a decade of long drawn legal battle with the State. The owners of BVOI won the fight and is now proving the odds wrong. Blind people can be as good as their sighted colleagues in professionally running a profitable business. And we have awards to prove it. Read our history by clicking here.

For the awards, please click here.

History of Blind Vendors Ohana, Inc.

What is Blind Vendors Ohana

What is Blind Vendors Ohana, Inc.?  Ohana is a corporation that operates the newsstand concession at the Honolulu International Airport.  There are three
corporate owners; Walter S. Ishikawa (Secretary/Treasurer), Tommy M. Morikami (Vice-President), and Filo K. Tu (President/CEO).  Presently Ohana operates
nine retail outlets and employs approximately eighty people, more than half of whom are disabled. 

        It was very difficult in the beginning.  Ohana took control of the Newsstand Concession on June 1, 1994.  The first order of business was two fold;
1) to employ as many disabled employees from the previous concessionaire (Maka’ala) as possible, and 2) arrange for a bank loan of $2.1 million in order
to remodel all of the retail outlets.  This was the first time that blind vendors remodeled their own facilities and furnished their own inventories in
the history of the Hawaii Business Enterprise Program.  The bank loan was made possible through the timely

cooperation of Mr. Curtis Tom, Manager of Bank of Hawaii’s International Airport Branch.  He believed that we would succeed.  To Curtis Tom, thank you very,
very much for your great faith in us.   

        We also pause to thank Mr. John Reed, then President of DFS Hawaii, who worked closely with us and assigned his well trained staff to assist us
in arranging for the remodeling of our retail outlets. 

        The first high ranking State official to publicly support the efforts of Blind Vendors in this endeavor was Mr. Owen Miyamoto, then Chief of the
Airports Division, State Department of Transportation.  At a time when, within State Government, there existed doubts that blind people could manage the
business operation at the Honolulu International Airport.  Mr. Owen Miyamoto is quoted as saying, “I really don’t know what is the problem.  The blind
were running the airport stands in the sixties.”  Thank you very much Mr. Miyamoto for believing in the capabilities of the blind. 

The Newsstand Concession was abruptly and improperly taken away from the blind in 1970 by the Department of Transportation with the concurrence of the Department
of Human Services.  The blind were not properly organized to fight back at that time.  Neither were there sufficient experience or financial resources
to combat this situation.  As a result, the State put together Maka’ala Inc., a non-profit corporation to operate the Newsstand Concession. 

        In late January, 1984 ten Hawaii blind vendors filed suit against the State Department of Human Services and the State Department of Transportation
in the Circuit Court in order to return the Newsstand Concession to its rightful place within the Blind Vending Facility Program.  Warren Toyama and Filo
Tu spearheaded the long and difficult ten year battle.  Numerous fund raising, frequent meetings with attorneys, and keeping the vendors motivated to continue
the fight was a tremendous task.  Warren and Filo displayed outstanding leadership qualities throughout the entire ten year period. 

        Many thanks go out to the blind vendors who signed as plaintiffs in our lawsuit; Charlotte (Lois) Kauhane, Miriam Onomura, Yoshiko Nishihara, Clyde
Ota, Walter Ishikawa, Alice Schaar (deceased), Isram Nihoa (deceased), Warren Toyama, Filo Tu, and Jeanette Tu. 

        Our attorneys handling our case demonstrated a high degree of ability and creativity in winning the lawsuit.  Stanley Levin, Esq. and Evan Shirley,
Esq. deserve our heartfelt thanks for the wonderful work they did for us.  Also deserving our thanks is one Durward McDaniel, Esq. who worked with our
attorneys to help steer them in the right direction.  Mr. McDaniel, now deceased, resided in Austin, Texas at the time.  Robert Humphreys, Esq. from Washington
D.C., also came to our aid with his expertise in Federal Law.   

A special thanks go to every member of the Hawaii Association of the Blind, an organization of consumers that advocates for the blind.  The Hawaii Association
of the Blind contributed over $130,000.00 to help cover legal fees.  Many thanks also go out to the Hawaii Blind Vendors Association and its individual
members for their donations of over $35,000.00, also for legal fees. 

        Concerning the $2.1 million loan from Bank of Hawaii – You can imagine the reluctance that Bank of Hawaii officials felt when dealing with the loan
application from the blind owners.  You can also imagine the great fear that the blind owners felt when they were asked to sign over their residences as
collateral for the loan!  As a matter of fact one of the owners had second thoughts about signing the loan document.  Many thanks to Warren and Julie Toyama
who were willing to put up their home as collateral.   

        During the course of the past ten years Blind Vendors Ohana has been directly responsible for training and placing six of its employees into individual
vending facilities in the State’s Blind Vending Facility Program.  

Dee Dee Letts (Mediator) 

David Fairbanks (Mediator) 

Reynaldo Graulty (State Senator) 

Tony Chang (State Senator) 

Ron Tang (DFS Hawaii) 

Rex Johnson (DOT Director) 

Winona Rubin (DHS Director) 

Albert Matsubara (DHS Deputy Director) 

Robert Marks (State Attorney General) 

Norman Mizuguchi (State Senator) 

Donald Thomson (Professor, Leeward Community College) 

Jeanette Tu 

Julie Toyama 



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