Densho Digital Archive
Frank Abe Collection
Title: Frank Emi Interview I
Narrator: Frank Emi
Interviewers: Frank Abe (primary); Frank Chin (secondary)
Location: San Gabriel, California
Date: February 23, 1993
Densho ID: denshovh-efrank-02-0001

<Begin Segment 1>

FA: Before the war, Frank, you, tell me a little bit about what you were doing before the war. You and your family were running your business, that kind of thing.

FE: Yeah, well, about two years prior to the war, we had started a family grocery store with a meat department, a grocery department, vegetable department. And originally, we had started that with just a produce department, and we added these on as business got better. So, by the time we evacuated, we had a complete little mini-supermarket, and almost all the bills paid for the fixtures, et cetera. Then we got whammed, cleaned out. We had about twenty five thousand dollars worth of investments there in fixtures and merchandise, which in today's dollars is not much, but back then it was a fortune, for us anyway. And we tried to get rid of it. We only had about a month, I guess, to get rid of it. And especially when people got wind of why, that we were going to be evacuated, why, they made some ridiculous offers. The most we could get was fifteen hundred dollars for the whole thing, and so we took a shellacking on that just like everybody else in the Japanese community did.


FA: Did you have photos?

FE: You know, we didn't take any photos of the store. I do have a photo of a, a store we had in, on the previous market we had where we just ran the produce department. There is a photo of that there.

FA: But so, before the war, you and your family... what business were you in?

FE: We were in the retail grocery, produce, meat depart-, meat business. Complete market. And...

FA: Did you have a lot of property invested in that store?

FE: Yes. We had about twenty-five thousand dollars' worth of fixtures and merchandise together. And we... the best we could get for it was fifteen hundred dollars because the buyers knew that they had us over a barrel. In fact, one guy came in and made such a ridiculous offer, I told him I'm gonna throw him out if he didn't get out of there quick, and he really scooted out. [Laughs]

FA: You, your job at the store was produce buyer, wasn't it?

FE: Yeah, I used to go at four o'clock in the morning and go to the wholesale market and buy produce, bring it in. And my brother, my sister and brother were taking care of the produce department. And then I would operate the grocery end of it. Grocery department. Then we had a butcher, we hired a butcher, a meat man to run the meat department. Yeah.

FA: Give me a picture of what your day would start off like, going to the produce market.

FE: Okay. Going to the produce market about four in the morning, which was kind of late, 'cause some people with big markets used to go there by two o'clock in the morning, you know. And we'd get up there and make the rounds of the market, looking for the best produce at the best price, et cetera, you know. And then we'd load up the truck and bring it home, and unload it, and then either I or my brother or my sister -- sometimes my dad would come, but he was semi-retired after auto accident. So we'd go clean the vegetables up and display 'em. Then the grocery department didn't take as much handling because they were all staple goods. So...

<End Segment 1> - Copyright © 1993, 2005 Frank Abe and Densho. All Rights Reserved.