Sunday, January 7, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 7, 2001

Blind vendor took risk and gained self-respect

By Hugh Clark
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

KEAHOLE, Hawaii — There was not much Myles Tamashiro could do when he lost most of his sight 10 years ago as the result of a degenerative eye disease.

Not much, except embark on a new career path, get training in Hawaii and on the Mainland and start his own business.

"You can’t change blindness, but you can change your attitude," said Tamashiro, 43, who lives in Mililani with his wife and three children but commutes almost daily to Kona International Airport, where he and his three sighted employees sell newspapers, magazines, soda, sandwiches and other items.

The entrepreneur took over the vending stand last year, and has just finished $100,000 in renovations.

He says that being able to fly solo almost daily on interisland flights between Honolulu and Kona has given him confidence and self-respect.

When he became legally blind, Tamashiro left his job as a warehouse supervisor and entered the Hoopono self-help program under the state Department of Human Services. He started working at smaller vending stands at state office buildings and at the Hawaii Newspaper Agency building on Kapiolani Boulevard before he decided to seize an opportunity to take over one of two stands at the Kona airport.

Although space in public and private buildings is made available through an arrangement with Human Services, blind vendors operate their stands as independently owned businesses.

With help from the Hawaii Association of the Blind, Tamashiro received additional business training in Des Moines, Iowa, through the state’s Department for the Blind.

Bank of Hawaii gave him a loan to fix up his Kona airport stand.

Warren Toyama, 64, president of the Association of the Blind and a vendor at Tripler Medical Center, has mentored Tamashiro. Toyama, who helped form the association 33 years ago, cites Tamashiro’s track record of success and upbeat outlook in getting his loan request approved as a case in point. "This was a business deal, not a handout. The bank knows the blind will reward them by repayment."

Tamashiro also has found guidance and inspiration from Filo Tu, who is part of the Blind Vendors Ohana, which owns three stands at Honolulu International Airport. Tu hooked Tamashiro up with his banker, then visited Kona to help plan the renovation project. He said that to succeed, any business has to look good and be clean.

Tu also remarked on Tamashiro’s positive attitude. "He never gets down. He’s happy, that’s the main thing."

Both Tamashiro and Tu hope the recent upgrades will inspire the state’s 36 other blind vendors to consider similar steps.

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