San Gabriel city officials are joined by Alan Miyatake of Toyo Miyatake Studio and Mary Ishihara and her father, Saburo, of San Gabriel Nursery on May 2. Both Japanese American family businesses were honored as they celebrate 100 years in operation. From left: Senya Lubisich, Beatriz Mojarro, John Wu, Denise Menchaca, Mayor John Harrington, Tony Ding and Eric Chan. (Photo by TIM YAMAMOTO)


SAN GABRIEL — The San Gabriel City Council celebrated two local Japanese American legacy businesses at their meeting on Tuesday. San Gabriel Nursery and Toyo Miyatake Studio were recognized for their decades of service to the region.

Senya Lubisich, a member of the Historic Preservation and Cultural Resource Commission, said it was an honor to recognize both businesses, noting that May is both Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and Historic Preservation Month.

Alan Miyatake and Mary Ishihara Swanton represented their families.

“I think in making these presentations it’s a wonderful opportunity to speak to the long history of San Gabriel … but more importantly to the longevity of these two Japanese-owned businesses, their persistence and resilience,” said Lubisich.

“One is maintaining a business for 100 years but also enduring the bruises of marginalization and racism that has been such an impact on these communities.”

Alan Miyatake accepted the honor on behalf of his family. Toyo Miyatake Studio was founded in 1923 by Toyo Miyatake in Little Tokyo. Archie Miyatake and his son, Alan, moved the studio to the present location in San Gabriel, where the studio serves Southern California.

Miyatake presented a photo taken by his grandfather in 1923. With help of friend George Valdez, a San Gabriel resident, the grandson recreated the photo of nuns 100 years later in front of the San Gabriel Mission.

Fred and Mitoko Yoshimura with their four children: Hayao, Raymond, Florence and Margie. They founded what was then called Mission Nursery in 1923 and the entire family pitched in and helped at the nursery. (Courtesy San Gabriel Nursery)

Mary Ishihara Swanton, granddaughter of Fred and Mitoko Yoshimura, accepted the commendation on behalf of her family. San Gabriel Nursery is one of the oldest and largest nurseries and florists in Southern California. It was founded by Fred and Mitoko Yoshimura in 1923 as Mission Nursery and continues today as a family business.

Ishihara Swanton said it was the dream of her aunt, Maggie Yoshihashi, for the business to be recognized on its centennial. Maggie, who passed away in January, worked the cashier and called out orders at the nursery.

San Gabriel Nursery & Florist today.

“We are here today because of the hard work, determination and perseverance of the generations before, including my father, Saburo Ishihara, who is here with us today,” said Ishihara Swanton. “Cousins Fred Yoshimura, Robert and Ben Yoshihashi and husband Todd, they all help to run the business. Our business is so entwined with our family history that it’s difficult to describe one without mentioning the other. We are thankful for the employees and customers who have supported us for the past 100 years.

“We are honored to be a part of beautifying the community through millions of plants, trees and flowers that have been sold and are still thriving in residences throughout the San Gabriel Valley and beyond.”

THEN AND NOW: Alan Miyatake presented these two photos of nuns in front of San Gabriel Mission. The photo above was taken by his grandfather Toyo in 1923; image below was shot by Alan this month. (Courtesy Toyo Miyatake Studio)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *