Page 5 - MidWeek Kauai - Oct 13, 2021
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who owned one of the state’s most popular brands of kimchi sauce. Whether or not it would be profit- able was another story.
“All my calculations were wrong,” Irish remembers. “I was losing money.”
To bolster his business, Irish approached Joe Kim of Joe Kim’s Kimchee to forge a partnership. Instead, Kim suggested Irish buy Halm’s Korean brand.
of developing more product lines, we ended up acquiring more com- panies.
“I remember thinking, ‘Why would I want another kimchi com- pany since I was losing money at Parks?’” Irish remembers.
“A lot of these mom-and-pop shops, the parents started it to put their kids through Punahou or ‘Iola- ni, but the last thing these kids want to do is come back and label bottles for the rest of their lives. They’re lawyers now or bankers or doctors. So, when the parents want to retire and sell, that’s where we come into play.”
Despite his initial hesitancy, Irish decided to take whatever capital he had and purchase Halm’s. The transaction paid off three months later when he was able to incorpo- rate Parks into Halm’s and move operations from Kalihi to Wai‘alae.
What followed were the addition of local kimchi favorites like A-1 and Kohala, as well as Diamond Head Seafood Wholesale in the
OCTOBER 13, 2021
     “That just started to become our business model,” he says. “Instead
early 1990s (formerly Suisan in Honolulu) and Keoki’s (makers of kalua pig and lau lau) in 1995.
 The “King of Kimchi” relaxes at home with wife Sandy. PHOTO COURTESY MIKE IRISH
Over the years, Irish, who’s been enjoying life as a wine and whis- key hobbyist these days, has picked up quite a bit of knowledge about the nuances of kimchi-making. He
“We’re just a small bunch of lo- cal people trying to make good local food for other local people,” Irish says. “I’ m so appreciative to work with the people that I work with to produce what we do for Hawai‘i and give back as much as we can.”
“At one time, I had three loca- tions: Kalihi, Fisherman’s Wharf and Wai‘alae Avenue,” says Irish, who would visit each facility at least once a day. “It made the day really long for me, but in those days traffic wasn’t as bad.”
 The last kimchi company Halm’s Enterprises acquired was in 2019, and it brought Irish’s journey full circle.
“Right before the pandemic, we bought Joe Kim’s Kimchee,” Irish says. “Here we were 35 years ago talking, and now we’re together.”
Irish’s goal has always been to keep the flavors of Hawai‘i in the islands and to honor the brands that locals have grown to love and tastes that “bring you back to yesteryear,” to hear him tell it. It’s why all the same branding and packaging are in place, and Irish makes sure he sticks to the original recipes. So, if some- thing doesn’t taste right, he has one request: “Please call me,” he says.
(Top left) The Cho ‘ohana — from Mike Irish’s maternal side of the family. PHOTO COURTESY MIKE IRISH (Top right) President Mike Yonemura and CEO Mike Irish showcase their companies’ goods. (Above) Mike Irish is a very hands-on owner, whether he’s overseeing operations for Halm’s Enterprises, Keoki’s or Diamond Head Seafood Wholesale.
notes that vegetable flavors change throughout the year: sweeter and more watery in the winter, and harder and drier in the summer. It’s why he walks the floor of his op- eration at least twice a week doing taste tests and adjusting salt or sugar where needed, and why each batch is made by hand by dedicated work-
ers — the same way it’s been done for decades.

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