Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: George Tsugawa Interview
Narrator: George Tsugawa
Interviewer: Linda Tamura
Location: Woodland, Washington
Date: December 19, 2013
Densho ID: denshovh-tgeorge-01-0017

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LT: So George, in developing your very successful business, Tsugawa Nursery and Gardens, especially after the war, how did you develop relationships in a new community with people you really didn't have connections with?

GT: I know I... it's hard to explain it, but just being good to the customers, you know, you start to build, it took time. It took a lot of time, because we have such good customers now, all over. But I could just say one thing, just treat the customers right, and they'll be back. If they say, "Well, I did this," you don't argue with them, you just say, "Well, absolutely you're right, here. Take this one here, no charge," and you keep doing things like that, and you'll eventually build up a base for a lot of good customers, and that's what we've got right now. Then our employees, gosh, I don't know, we have... well, we just gave out Christmas bonus the other day, and we gave out something, because it wasn't that great a year, but we look at some of those people, and some of those people have been with us twenty, twenty-some years, fifteen, twenty years. And I know they're not getting rich, but it's just a side business when they like it, but I guess they like us because they would never think about going anyplace else, they never question about what they're getting paid, it's amazing. But they're just good employees and good customers, because we have customers that are from all over Oregon, you might say, and, well, not far south, and in Washington, we have a lot of customers just come right down from Seattle area, Olympia, Tacoma. Because they say our product here is a lot less money than up there, and they're very happy with us. So it took lots of time to build up this confidence in the customers, that they're going to get treated right. And anybody that goes away unhappy, we just do things to make 'em happy. Some take advantage of us, I know, but most of them can't believe that we made this good for 'em, and without even arguing very much, we'll say, "You're right, you're right. Here, take this home," or, "take this with you," like that. It takes a long, long time to build up that base there, because we've been here over thirty-something years, and I think that's about, at least take fifteen, twenty years to have a good base of customers.

LT: During those first fifteen, twenty years, was it an issue that you were a Japanese American business?

GT: Well, it was never brought up to us like they were a different nationality, that was never, ever questioned, what nationality we are. But that was never brought up. They do know we're a different nationality, but they never asked us. I guess it was never brought up.

LT: Were there ever any incidents when customers or other business people treated you differently because...

GT: Nationality?

LT: ...of your nationality?

GT: No, I don't think so. I sure never felt it. But then again, I didn't work over there. I mean, I was not a salesman. We were farming and doing other things, but I left that up to my son and everything. They took care of it. My policy all the time is if they don't argue with them, just give it to 'em no matter what it looks like. Just give it to 'em. Some people are so dumbfounded that we didn't even argue, they say, like they started to say something and they'll say, "Aren't you going to argue anymore?" or something like that, they were surprised that they were taken care of without any more argument. And that's just one thing we just didn't want to get involved with, argue with customers that they were right and we were wrong. We always said, "You are absolutely right. Here, take this along or take this with you, and I hope this will make it come out right," or something, but it always pays off in the end.

LT: How did you get involved in the larger community in Woodland?

GT: Larger community?

LT: Were you involved in community organizations, activities?

GT: Not really, not really. I should have, but we were not much joiners, you know. I just got to thinking about, they didn't... I did belong to the Lion's Club for many years, and I think that's the last thing I ever joined in Woodland. My wife was the PTA and stuff like that, but I myself never got really involved and my son didn't either. He should have been part of the Chamber of Commerce, but he wasn't even belonging to that. It's amazing we did what we did without joining up with a lot of things. We should have. But I know I didn't, and I know Brian didn't, he was a manager. He should have been involved in a lot of things, but he didn't ever, never did get involved.

<End Segment 17> - Copyright © 2013 Oregon Nikkei Endowment and Densho. All Rights Reserved.