Along a dusty gravel road off a stretch of highway in Hilo, Hawaii, sits Green Point Nurseries.
This Big Island flower grower has been in business since 1976, with founder Harold Tanouye making the transition from flower seller to flower grower after uncovering an opportunity in Hawaii’s export market.
“My father ended up becoming a grower not by choice, but by need,” says Green Point Nurseries President Eric Tanouye. “He marketed anthuriums all over the U.S., learning that there was a shortage of red anthuriums in the market. So, he wanted to grow them on this nursery.”
A colorful niche in the market
The anthurium is the star of the Green Point show, with the nursery dedicating most of the space under its sunshade roof to growing this tropical flower. Workers roam row after row of colorful blooms, hauling bucketloads to an on-site packing center where they are carefully placed between layers of wet paper—ready to land in vases around the world a day or two later.
The flower market is a crowded space, with Green Point selling against large international growers with cheaper land and labor. While Eric Tanouye admits global competitors will always be a challenge, he says the niche he has carved out gives his nursery an edge.
“We’re always going to be an export market for large, global producers,” says Tanouye. “What we have going for us is a strong brand and also good germplasm, so that’s going to help the next generation of our business compete against global competition.”
A foundation of innovation
In Green Point’s early days, Harold Tanouye partnered with the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture to learn how to grow flowers in the state’s unique climate. That partnership has evolved over the years to allow the nursery to work with university scientists to breed colors of anthurium unique to the business. Green Point’s distribution process has also changed industry standards, with other growers adopting the nursery’s packaging techniques.
As for future opportunities, third generation farmer Jon Tanouye looks towards growth in the global market to take Green Point to the next level.
“It’s important for Hawaii to compete not only locally, but internationally,” says Jon Tanouye. “Our strategic location gives us an opportunity to expand and reach new potential markets.”
Clearly, innovation and evolution are built into the fabric of the Tanouye family business, though Eric Tanouye admits his motivation to grow and sell flowers has more timeless roots.
“Flowers make people happy,” says Tanouye. “They show up with all the special events in someone’s life. I think that’s why I like what I do.”