At 7:45am on Friday mornings, you can usually find us 4 having our weekly breakfast meetings at Poppy and Rose LA: GM of The Southern California Flower Market, Scott; Kono and Sons owner, Jon; and Tommy from Mayesh Wholesale.
Ever since I became the social media coordinator at the flower market, I've had the honor of really getting to know the three of them. We usually just joke around, but here and there, some interesting facts about John’s experience of growing up and eventually taking over the family business will slip in. Curious about Kono and Sons’ origins, especially since it’s one of the last original vendors at our market, I interrupted John’s morning Haikus and convinced him to share his story with me.
1. Kono & Sons is one of our oldest vendors here at The Southern California Flower Market. Can you tell us a little bit about the history and how your family got started?
It was started by my great uncle who came from Japan — Masajiro, Kai. He was the head of the company. It was originally called Loma Flowers, meaning ‘hill flowers.’ Back in the 1950’s, Masajiro was eager to learn more and experimented with lights and controlling crops at a University. He applied what he researched to growing chrysanthemums (which is now our specialty flower), and we have been growing them ever since.
We initially had four acres of greenhouses and then eventually expanded to seven acres. We used the open land for field crops and grew everything you could think of — belladonnas, snaps, sunflowers, and of course, our chrysanthemums.
My father married into the family business and was the sales, marketing guy. Around 1979/80’s, my father and I bought the Loma Flower name and the land in Carpenteria. Once my brother and I were old enough to handle the business, our father handed over the reigns and we have been keeping it going ever since.
2. Where do you see/hope to see Kono & Sons in five years? 10 years?
We are now shrinking down the business. We want to downsize in order to reduce our workload and slow down. At the moment, we’re not sure how we are going to shut down the business but I would image it will take place in four to five years from now. As you know, we also started up an Avocado farm in Carpinteria.
3. How exciting that you have started up an Avocado farm! Can you tell us a little more about that? What inspired you to start this up?
Craig (my brother) and I currently own 10 acres of land in Carpenteria and we have known for a long time that this land was a prime location, a golden triangle for growing avocados (pounds per acre yield is above the chart. ALWAYS). Anyways, it’s a good location with great climate, not to mention the low maintenance and labor. It is simple to grow and no marketing is involved in selling.
We started this off slow, only using a few acres to experience and grow them. Now we have been filling up as many acres as we can with avocados. We have gotten rid of all the other flowers but continue to grow our greenhouse chrysanthemums.
4. Do you have any potential names for your avocado farm?
KONAVO - that’s all we have for now. My son came up with the name ha!
5. Are there any special memories from the flower market you would like to share?
There are so many. I would say the best part has been the opportunity to meet so many people — our clientele has been pretty consistent, and developing these relationships with customers and tenants over so many years has been great.
It was interesting because I came in at the time when it was the heyday of the growers. It was cool to have that connection with the old guys and the up and coming guys. I have heard so many stories of what happened before and after hours of the market in the 40’s and 50’s. I won’t get into the details though...
I would also say it was fun being on the board, in fact, I am still on the board. It’s been a pleasure working with Scott. He took the board and The Southern California Flower Market to a whole new level — made it a true business. Strictly business.
Although it’s bittersweet to hear that Kono & Sons will be saying their farewells in four to five years, we wish them all the luck and success on their next chapter.
He won’t be gone for long, especially since he considers The Southern California Flower Market his second home. Rest assure I’m sure we will still be seeing Jon walking around, chatting it up with other tenants and customers, or posted up on the white bench next to his shop writing his morning Haikus.
Visit Kono & Sons Inc.
from the Southern California Flower Market