Generations Of Dedication

Regardless of whether your business is big or small, perhaps the most rewarding legacy you can create is opportunities for your children. That most certainly has been the case with the Tagawa family in Brighton, Colo.

Tagawa Greenhouses just completed one phase of a succession plan involving 26 family members, passing the ownership and management of the business from one generation to the next. The family business was founded in 1967 by Frank and Hazel Tagawa and their six children, Ken, Albert, Dave, George, Jim and Caroline. Frank and Hazel came from the Yuba City area of California and grew vegetables before being sent to a camp at Amache, Colo., during World War II. After the war, Frank worked as a sharecropper and truck farmer until saving up enough money to purchase 120 acres outside of Brighton.

The family grew vegetables and seedlings in a few wooden-frame greenhouses and then diversified into carnations, roses and spring bedding plants. Today, Tagawa Greenhouses is the largest producer of bedding plant plugs in North America through its partnership with Ball Seed. The operation is also a strong producer of retail-ready, finished product for The Home Depot, Costco, supermarkets and other retailers in the region.

Tagawa Greenhouses is actually just one division of the family enterprise, Tagawa Inc., which also includes:

•Â  60 percent ownership in Denver Wholesale Florist, which has 14 wholesale branches across the United States.

•Â  Tagawa Garden Center and Florist, a premier independent garden center in the Denver area.

•Â  Ball Tagawa Growers, a 50/50 partnership with Ball Seed in California.

With $35 million in sales, Tagawa Greenhouses is the second largest of the four divisions and was the first to undergo succession planning. 

A Smooth Transition

Ken’s son, Randy, had the benefit of working closely with his father, uncles, siblings and cousins his entire life before taking over as CEO. Although he graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in hort/business, there was a point in which he almost became a franchise owner of a pizza restaurant 15 years ago. But a much better opportunity came along–managing the new Ball-Tagawa production greenhouses in Arroyo Grande, Calif.

He stayed there for five years and then came back to Colorado to manage Tagawa Greenhouses. At that time, 10 years ago, a more corporate management structure was put in place. Before, each brother ran a section of the company.

“Even though I am the CEO, my dad and uncles are still very active in the company, as well as a total of 15 family members within the Tagawa organization,” Randy says. “Dad helps me oversee the administration and overall business aspects of the company, and George keeps a close watch on production and culture.”

In recent years, Tagawa Greenhouses has been transitioning from a business that is family run to family owned. Outside consultants and long-term employees who are not family members have been a big part of that.

“We at Tagawa have developed an infrastructure that is both vertically and horizontally integrated, from growing, wholesale, distribution, merchandising and retailing, which has provided the flexibility and ability to strategically plan and react to the always-changing business environment we encounter every day,” Ken says. “This has provided numerous opportunities for not only the family, but for the dedicated employees of our companies.”

When asked for advice for other family businesses undergoing succession planning, Ken says, “It does take a dedicated effort over a long period and it’s important to emphasize the process of building relationships, both with family and employees, and to communicate, affect good planning, and where possible, try to engage competent professional third-party consultants.”  

A Plan With Values

The Tagawas retained one of the largest accounting firms in Denver, EKS&H, to help with the estate planning and succession plan. The process began with the family identifying family guiding principles:

•Â  Maintain the family business legacy.

•Â  Shift from a business to support the family to what’s best for the business.

•Â  Provide retirement funding for uncles and aunts.

•Â  Maintain profitability within each business segment.

“We wanted concentrated ownership as the businesses pass from the first generation to the second,” Randy explains. “We felt that in our business, it’s hard to have people who weren’t in the business or interested in the business making decisions for the company.”

Ken adds, “It’s important to note that Tagawa has always emphasized that a career path within the companies is a choice, and in order to be successful, one has to have passion in their job.” 

A Heartfelt Thank You 

“My dad, mom, uncles and aunts are very special and amazing people. They have given everything to the business and their families. Their accomplishments throughout the years are remarkable. The new owners of Tagawa Greenhouses want to thank the Tagawa Family for the opportunity. With much gratitude, thank you.

We would like to thank Anna and all the individuals at Ball Horticultural Co. for the many years of partnering and support. We appreciate working with you through the challenges and opportunities.”–Randy Tagawa

The next step was developing objectives and a plan to meet the principles:

•Â  Organize Tagawa Greenhouses’ ownership for future success.

•Â  Give all cousins the opportunity to become owners of Tagawa Greenhouses. All owners must be dedicated, full-time employees and willing to put all their personal assets on the line for the business.

•Â  Maintain flexibility for uncles and aunts to make decisions regarding individual estates.

•Â  Protect the family enterprise.

Of the 15 cousins and in-laws, six became new owners of Tagawa Greenhouses: Randy Tagawa, Yoshi Tagawa, Aiko and Yuji Kimura, Glenn Tagawa and Cheryl Tagawa. Ownership was also opened up to two long-term managers who are not family members: John Williams, who is production vice president and has been with Tagawa Greenhouses for 22 years, and Bill Kluth, who is in charge of legal and technology and has been with the company 10 years.

“I was very honored to be asked to participate in the future of the company as an owner,” Kluth says. “The Tagawa family values are the company’s values. Their tradition of hard work, dedication to employees and customers and producing high-quality products make it a great place to work and a great opportunity.”

When Williams handed Randy the envelope with his personal assets for the bank, he wrote, “This is everything that we own. We feel that it’s a good investment. We are investing and believing in ourselves, our people and the business.”

Randy couldn’t agree more. “I think that’s what all of us feel in the new organization,” he says. “The next generation of owners will have the same dedication, passion and energy to take the business into the future.”

Yuji Kimura says he was impressed by how fairly things were presented. “Everyone had the opportunity to become part of ownership, and because there was a financial commitment, also to become owners. It truly did feel as if we were starting something new with all the benefits of an established business.”

Leave a Reply

More From Business Management...
Stepables Tough-Ten Tags

May 25, 2017

Jury Awards Damages in Stepables Photo Copyright Case, But The Perennial Farm’s Appeal May be Forthcoming

According to a press release from Under A Foot Plant, Co,, a jury awarded Under A Foot Plant (which owns the Stepables product line) $900,000 in actual damages for The Perennial Farm’s use of Stepables’ copyrighted photographs.

Read More

May 25, 2017

AmericanHort Hosting Advocacy Visit to Capitol Hill in September

AmericanHort has announced it will be hosting Impact Washington, an inaugural advocacy and policy summit, in Washington, DC, Sept. 12-13.

Read More

May 23, 2017

USDA-APHIS Bulletin on Unauthorized Distribution of Genetically Engineered Petunias

On May 2, 2017, USDA-APHIS was informed that an orange petunia variety was potentially genetically engineered and had been imported and moved interstate without required authorization by APHIS. This led to testing of numerous petunia varieties, which confirmed this particular variety and several others are genetically engineered, and meet the regulatory definition of a regulated article under APHIS regulations. APHIS continues to work with the industry to ensure unauthorized GE petunias are not distributed in the United States.

Read More
Latest Stories
Stepables Tough-Ten Tags

May 25, 2017

Jury Awards Damages in Stepables Photo Copyright Case, …

According to a press release from Under A Foot Plant, Co,, a jury awarded Under A Foot Plant (which owns the Stepables product line) $900,000 in actual damages for The Perennial Farm’s use of Stepables’ copyrighted photographs.

Read More

May 25, 2017

AmericanHort Hosting Advocacy Visit to Capitol Hill in …

AmericanHort has announced it will be hosting Impact Washington, an inaugural advocacy and policy summit, in Washington, DC, Sept. 12-13.

Read More

May 23, 2017

USDA-APHIS Bulletin on Unauthorized Distribution of Gen…

On May 2, 2017, USDA-APHIS was informed that an orange petunia variety was potentially genetically engineered and had been imported and moved interstate without required authorization by APHIS. This led to testing of numerous petunia varieties, which confirmed this particular variety and several others are genetically engineered, and meet the regulatory definition of a regulated article under APHIS regulations. APHIS continues to work with the industry to ensure unauthorized GE petunias are not distributed in the United States.

Read More

May 23, 2017

6 Simple Ways to Acquire New Customers

Even the most successful brands need new customers if they want to grow their business, or stay profitable.

Read More
Dr. P. Allen Hammer, Dummen Orange

May 22, 2017

New Dümmen Orange Scholarship Honors Legacy of Dr. P. A…

“Our industry’s future depends on attracting and supporting bright, hard-working students into horticulture programs across North America, and the support of Dümmen Orange will aid that effort,” Hammer says.

Read More
The Greenhouse and Hoophouse growers handbook

May 19, 2017

New Book Highlights the Benefits of Growing Vegetables …

Andrew Mefferd’s new book, “The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook: Organic Vegetable Production Using Protected Culture,” covers the many benefits of protected culture food production, from being first to market, to more effective pest control.

Read More
MedMen New Facility

May 18, 2017

MedMen Cannabis Production Facility in Nevada Nearly Co…

Construction is expected to be completed this summer on the facility, which will include a 26,000-square-foot greenhouse and a 19,000-square-foot extraction and production wing.

Read More
New Frontier Cannabis Industry Annual Report

May 18, 2017

New Frontier Publishes Annual Report on the Cannabis In…

The 2017 Cannabis Industry Annual Report provides an up-to-date perspective on the growth and transformation of the legal cannabis industry, and what it means for each segment of the market, including producers.

Read More
ISO Cutting Machine

May 16, 2017

The Top 100 Growers are Investing in More Technology to…

Labor has traditionally been among growers’ most significant costs, but the continued rising costs and lack of available labor are currently two very heavy burdens that growers have to bear. As the labor supply dwindles, the Top 100 Growers discuss their next steps toward investing in technology to streamline efficiency at their respective operations.

Read More
Flores El Capiro, AIPH Grower of the Year 2017

May 16, 2017

Entries Now Open for International Grower of the Year A…

The International Association of Horticultural Producers’ International Grower of the Year Awards, sponsored by Royal Flora Holland, will take place at IPM Essen 2018 in Essen, Germany.

Read More
Cannabis Crop Protection

May 14, 2017

2017 Cannabis Regulatory Outlook: A Game of Wait and Se…

Medical and adult use legalization measures are on the legislative agenda in a total of 37 states in 2017 — and there's a sentiment gaining steam that the new administration may not be so scary after all.

Read More
2016 Top 100 Growers List

May 12, 2017

How the Top 100 Greenhouse Growers Tackle Managing Cost…

The country’s largest growers continue to strive to maintain a balance with price and costs while making sure they stand out from the competition.

Read More

May 8, 2017

Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Behind the Scenes: How (and W…

It’s more important than ever to have good data that allows us to accurately measure the size and scope of our industry.

Read More
2016 Top 100 Growers List

May 8, 2017

2017 Greenhouse Grower Top 100 Growers: The Complete Li…

Growth signifies a healthy industry, and indeed, several of Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers expanded their operations significantly between 2016 and 2017.

Read More
Garrett Owen Feature Image

May 7, 2017

Garrett Owen Joins Michigan State University Floricultu…

Owen was hired in January 2017 with an Extension and research appointment in floriculture and greenhouse production.

Read More
Bailey Endless Summer Pandora Station

May 4, 2017

A Unique Marketing Campaign: Endless Summer Partners Wi…

Consumers can tune into the “Artists Rebloomed” station on Pandora to find hit songs from musical artists who have “rebloomed” and reinvented themselves throughout the years.

Read More
Bees at Bell Nursery - feature

May 3, 2017

Find Out What Bell Nursery Learned About Bees While Kee…

In spring 2014, Bell Nursery stopped using neonicotinoids to find out how it would impact production. Then the operation began keeping bees to learn more.

Read More
Biocontrols and beneficials absolutely can be used in outdoor production, with the use of banker plant systems

May 2, 2017

Michigan State Offering Summer Courses on Biocontrols a…

Registration for the courses, which take place online and provide detailed information on biocontrols and lighting in the greenhouse, is now open.

Read More