Michael Irish, CEO of Diamond Head Seafood Wholesale and Keoki’s Lau Lau, says he’s honored to be on the Rehab Hospital of the Pacific’s board. He’ll be a guest speaker — or as he says “the poster child” — on May 31 at Rehab’s golf tournament at the Hawaii Prince course.
Irish qualifies as a poster child since it was 35 years ago when he triumphed at the Rehab Hospital over an injury that nearly left him a quadraplegic for the rest of his life. He was hit in the neck during his freshman year as a football player for the University of Hawaii. He says every time he smells the hospital, he remembers the three months he spent there.
“By the grace of God and Rehab I gained mobility to walk, and use of all my limbs,” he says gratefully. “I always told myself, if they ever needed anything or wanted anything I’d be more than willing to help.”
That’s just one of the things the man known for running Halm’s Kim Chee has done since he was on the cover of MidWeek in July 2000.
Another big event for Irish is also in May. He’s getting married to Sandra Onishi, owner of Island Girl’s Food Demonstration Company. They’ll be enjoying the new house he moved into six months ago, which is right on the Waialae Golf Course.
Since 2000, he’s bought three companies: Himax Kim Chee, Kewalo Kim Chee and Coco Taquan to add to his Parks Brand Sauces and Products, Kohala Kim Chee and Aloha Kim Chee.
“The owners of these companies wanted better lives for their children, so their children became doctors and lawyers,” explains Irish. “And now they don’t have someone to take care of their business. They come to me. Rather than see the companies die, I just keep the flavors of Hawaii alive and manufacture and distribute it all from one area in Palama.”
He oversees 110 employees for his 12 kim chee and pickled-food companies.
When Irish has leisure time, he enjoys real estate development projects on Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island as his dad was a developer and general contractor.
He also volunteers on the Judiciary Salary Commission for an eight-year term until 2011, and last year he joined the board for Castle Resorts.
“I guess people think I’m not busy enough,” he laughs.
—Linda Dela Cruz
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