Soul Ownership

Daruma-New ChapterWhen I decided I wanted to become a business owner, I didn’t even know what business I wanted to own.  Tea shop?  Florist?  Restaurant?  Bar? When I sat down to write my business plan, I needed a business that I could manage by myself and enjoy going to work everyday.  Just so happened that my boyfriend/recruited business partner sold liquor for a living, and I knew I could learn more about it.  Could it be that easy? In the beginning there was a lot speculation about my partner’s job as a salesman for the largest liquor distributor on the island and his ownership in SWAM.  It was stressful  to be accepted in the industry knowing your vendors were questioning the conflict of interest.  Now, no one gives a shit about what you own and who you work for.  It’s “good business.”  From the beginning, SWAM grew more rapidly than what I wanted. More shelves meant more stuff to stock. And I preferred that each item had a single facing. The perception of a full, well stocked store with a range of variety meant the business was healthy. Pulling back the reins or charging full speed were difficult to compromise. Being in a reletionship with your business partner was like oil and water.  The stress began to take over and manifested in ways that changed me.  I was unhealthy, depressed, and anxious.  As the relationship deteriorated, the business thrived.  There are tons of advice on how to start a business but not much on how to end your partnership with grace and dignity.  It’s taken about two years to dissolve the partnership and to forge through on my own seamlessly.  It’s been a long arduous journey to enjoy learning more about the business, get healthy, and rediscover my passions again.  I am grateful for the friends I made through the business and the friends who are family to me.  Most of all,  I am grateful for my mother who helped me in many ways.  I never thought that becoming a business owner would change my life forever.

Category : Blog

Expressing Gratitude with Libations

Gift BagsIn Hawaii, the act of expressing gratitude by reciprocating with gifts is genuinely a way of life. From a business thank you to a personal note or just because, expressing gratitude is just as important as the reason for the reciprocation. Giving a gift of alcohol from a teetotaler is very common in my business. I can appreciate a customer who goes out their comfort level to make the recepient happy. Just that gesture of gratitude reveals a lot about the gift giver. I’ll notice that the buyer is emphathic, conscientious, and concerned. It’s my job to help the buyer make a good decision that will make a lasting impression. Liquor is not for everyone but for those who enjoy it may have their own reservations about what is desirable to drink. When buying liquor for a gift, keep these helpful tips in mind to eliminate the anxiety.

  • Be observant, listen, and recall some key words like Merlot, Scotch, Margarita, etc.   This is helpful to narrow down the options in the style of liquor.
  • The level of the relationship with the recipient and the importance of the gift, this usually determines the budget.
  • The recipient’s level of knowlegde about their favorite drink, this also helps narrow down the options of brand choices.

I still believe that expressing gratitude does not come with strings attached, if only government felt that way as well. Now why would I say that?? It must be an election year…

Category : Blog

Tide Pool Zen Management

Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste. -Benjamin Franklin

With all my talk about my happiness and zen-filled attitude, the one important decision that mattered resulted in a very stupid mistake. My business is all about vice not including prostitution and illicit drugs; nevertheless, alcohol and tobacco are prime targets for taxation and law enforcement. To be in this business requires observation and patience much like tide pool watching. Being still not to disturb will result in a lot of clarity. In the tide pool, there is a community of life surviving to exist in a micro environment. Only the adaptable will survive. A boutique liquor store in Hawaii is much like competing in a tide pool. There are a lot of niches being carved and heavily protected, observing each other’s movement, and basically co-existing. When the clarity is disrupted with a bit of chaos, hasty decisions are made and mistakes occur. Patience is truly a virtue that we should strive to achieve everyday whether it be in traffic, waiting for the cigar smoke to clear, or just standing in line. I can make excuses for the mistakes I made, but in the end the right thing to do is accept the fault, patiently move forward, and adapt to make it better.

Category : Blog

SWAM Experiment: ‘I Look Like a Boy’ aka #私は男の子のように見ます

I Look Like a Boy
It all began with a hair cut.  A simple change in style started an experiment with social media and in androgenic transference.  My good friend,  Brenton Sugibayashi,  forwarded a NHK clip posting about young females in Japan role playing as boys.   The idea and their behavior really piqued my curiosity on gender advocacy.   Apparently the acceptance of role playing as boys have exploded into iconic proportions not just in Japan but worldwide.  The androgynous street style crossed over into the world of menswear models, boy bands, and social media.  The hosts of NHK promoted the #私は男の子のように見ます (I look like a boy hashtag) to increase viewership and publicity in the social media circles.

Taking into consideration, I now kind of looked like a boy. I wanted to take this ‘challenge’ and witness for myself if the same audience would embrace my androgenic transference. However, instead of just doing a self promotion of Jill Shiroma, I wanted to include my habits. I wanted to sell the idea and my behavior that I can hang out with the boys, drink and smoke like the boys. To my disappointment, the experiment did not generate the hundreds of fans to ‘like’ my photo or comment on it. Perhaps I could not fool the Boy Culture or I’m too old. Nevertheless, the experiment did create conversation at the shop and added a little more peculiarity to my persona.

Category : Blog

‘Kendamas’ Back to Business Basics at SWAM

Susie & Kendamas

Anything in life, we begin with basics. We begin to recognize, communicate, and take our first steps. It’s the core of our development. Then we develop our personality. However, I’m not a mother so I don’t have the first person point of view of how a baby grows up to be a toddler than a child to a teenager. I’ll engage with them and give them back to their parents. So I’ll be more reserved with the development of our personality.

What I did find fascinating is the renaissance of the Kendamas: “A kendama (けん玉 ?, also written as 剣玉 and 拳玉) is a traditional Japanese toy which consists of three wooden cups of different sizes placed on the center of a wooden spike, with a smaller cup at the spike’s base and a ball connected by a string to the center piece. In English, kendama may be referred to as ring and pin and bears similarities to the classic cup-and-ball game, similar to the Latin American world toy known as balero. The principle of these toys are the same: catching one object with another, where both are joined by a string.”

In my business there is a ball and spike Kendamic allegory. Call it juggling, coordination, and balance. It’s all of the above. The day starts out with a Bird: balancing the checkbook. Then it’s the Solar: coordinating the order, running errands, and responding to emails. Doors open and now it’s Jumping Stick to Zero Gravity: talking to vendors, hanging up on robo-calls, helping customers, Facebooking, Instagramming, entertaining the regulars, and then making sure everything balances at the end. A bit of advice is learn the basics, practice it, and let each victory become your own personality. It’s just another day at SWAM.

Category : Blog

The Spirit of the Pacific Northwest


There is no better time than now to discover the diversity of the American Whiskey.  From the Trail to the Guilds, American Whiskey is pouring out a tasty niche for themselves.  For the many upcoming distilleries, capitalizing on the trend means to be innovative.  Corn has become a very expensive commodity, so new grain alternatives like oat, quinoa, and spelt are used to tap into an increasing market.  Micro barreling have accelerated the aging process to where the inventory does not need to be held for nine years in a warehouse.  New make, white dog, and moonshines are accepted that whiskey does not need to be aged.  The diversity of brands have spawned into menagerie of must-haves in one’s collection.  The clamor to try something new has driven the industry to be more experimental, knowledgeable, and limited.

It was a great pleasure to finally have a working vacation with friends.  Our itinerary included more tourist attractions but in between we were able to fulfill my thirst for the spirits.   No wine? Sorry cork dorks, that’s next month. My journey starts with the Pacific Northwest and one day I’ll end up on the Eastern Shores. Here are some notable distilleries to look for and no, I did not try all of them.

Bull Run Distillery: available in Hawaii. Added bonus is around the corner is Southland Whiskey Kitchen, boasting over 170 whiskies on their menu, primarily American.
Clear Creek Distillery: available in Hawaii. Just met Stephen McCarthy, the mastermind behind Clear Creek and gave me great insight on their production. A huge supporter of keeping their suppliers Oregon based.
Crater Lake Vodka: available in Hawaii
Rogue Spirits: available in Hawaii
Ransom Distillery: please come to Hawaii!!
Edgefield & CPR Distillery: part of the McMenamins family of historic hotels, brewpubs, and movie theaters
Stone Barn Brandy Works
Eastside Distillery

Project V Distillery :  This is a must visit if you’re in Woodinville. The distiller is female, BONUS. Project V is so charming, artsy, and friendly.
Woodinville Whiskey Co. Expanding their tasting room and distillery
Dry Fly Distillery
SODO Spirits for Shochu fans.
Bainbridge Organic Distillers
OOLA Distillery
Heritage Distilling Company

To do and Go to
Bite of Oregon  Oregon’s Largest Culinary Event
Breweries represented were Fort George, 10 Barrel, Gilgamesh, Ninkasi, Oakshire, Laurelwood, Cascade, Hop Valley, Hop Works, Lompoc, Seven Brides, Rogue, Deschutes, and Widmer. Well represented.

Portland State University Farmers Market   Fresh produce, breads, wine tasting

Skidmore Saturday Market  Unique handcrafted gift items

Stroll down 23rd Avenue in Portland Trendy and boutique shops and eateries

Space Needle and Dale Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum Beautiful and Inspirational

Category : Blog

Picnic at the Plaza: A Youthful Point of View

by Kodie Watada
11 years old

“The annual stew cook off today was very fun. I felt very happy and excited. I felt this way because this was my first time to the annual stew cook off and to be there to help out and support a good cause. Something that could be done better is that everyone should get a little sample of stew instead of waiting for left overs. My favorite part was going to Toys R US booth and getting the Bop It toy. My least favorite part was when the changing room tent was falling down cause of the wind. So everyone had to hold the tent. So that is my experience at the annual stew cook off.”

Being there at the event, I know exactly what Kodie is talking about. She begins where the entrance of the event starts with the Stew Cook Off, walks through the main tent playing the games and visiting booths, and then notices the dressing room debacle at the exit of the event.  As adults when writing a blog, we tend to want to edit what we write.  But through the voice of an eleven year old, it flows like free writing.  I wish more of our youth will take up the pen and paper, speak up, and say something.

Category : Blog

Shop Local + Civic Engagement = Local Business Sustainability

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who took the time and submitted their Support for SB188 (Senate Bill 188).  To our delight, SB188 moved on from the Senate and now we are waiting for the House to approve.  Civic Engagement is an important right that many  do not take time or opportunity to make our voices heard. I agree that we are just too tired and overworked to read and understand Senate/House Bills. We voted them into office so let them do their job, but just voting for a candidate  is not enough. When the Senate and Legislature convene to make laws, it is our civic duty to watch what is being proposed. With social media spreading the word about impending legislation, we have witnessed a widespread support or opposition for certain bills of interest. The public’s involvement in our local government is just as important as shopping local. When we shop local, our local business will pay taxes to our own state. Our state programs benefit from our local businesses. When our own government chooses to take the ‘easy’ route to generate revenue, it creates strain on local businesses to compete. Take the time and get involved because we want to stay in the game.

See SB188 Testimonies

Category : Blog

Your Unforgettable Wine

This is not a blog about customers who believe shop owners are mind readers.  But since it’s been brought forth, I’ ll tread lightly.  We often forget that we have technology at our convenience.  We really don’t need to rely on paper and pen or even more our memory. We have smartphones and we have scrap booking.

I enjoy the rapport when a customer will ask for help about a wine they enjoyed.  Some will come prepared with a name and vintage scribbled on a piece of paper. Others will describe the label with photographic detail, but there are a few who will assume I will know exactly what they are talking about by simply saying that ‘it was red’ or the ‘label was white.’  Ask the right questions and eventually their memory will be jogged.

Here’s a tip, take a picture of the wine label and the menu of the establishment that way we’ll know if you dined on island.  If  you’re at a friend’s house,  take a picture with your host holding the bottle at least you’ll know where the party was held.  Pictures on a smartphone are the best form of memory recollection at our fingertips.

Another tip for those who just have to have that  same vintage ten years past, may have a difficult time finding the same wine with the same vintage.  Being stuck on a wine and its vintage because it was the best wine you ever experienced should be cherished as that, a moment in time.  Avoid the search and make more unforgettable wine memories.

Category : Blog

Westvelteren Headache

It began with excitement that the number one beer in the world was coming to the US market but more importantly to Hawaii. The announcement made the beer community in Hawaii anxious for its arrival and thirsty to try this highly coveted beer. Then came the ‘rules and restrictions’ and lack of communication. There’s no proof where the line of communication fell through the cracks but somewhere the stipulation regarding the ‘not-for-profit’ beer was not communicated clearly from the beginning. I may be the only retailer humming and hawing because I’m having a I’m-Just-Saying moment.

I definitely can agree to releasing the beer for sale on December 12 and refrain from mentioning the beer on the social media channels. I can agree to an allocation of two cases and selling them in only in six packs which I would have 8 six packs to sell. I can agree to sell the beer at a set price. However, I could not agree to selling the beer at cost because the Abbey does not want retailers making a profit on their beer. All sale will help restore the Abbey’s aging roof. Okay, the Abbey is requesting retailers to support their project to rebuild their roof by selling their number one beer in the world and no one don’t gets a dime for the overhead cost or even a tax write off? Clearly, I missed that memo about creative ways to fund raise.

Category : Blog