- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - Changing your whole life path based on a chance conversation likely would be something your parents would counsel you against doing.

It was nevertheless the choice Betty Honma (nee Nagamoto) made in 1965, when she decided against completing her studies toward a teaching degree at the University of Hawaii.

“It just wasn’t right for me,” she said in a statement. In that era, girls were expected to become nurses, teachers, or secretaries, or enroll in college to obtain a good old “M-r-s” degree.

She departed from the expected to establish her business and become her own boss, and this month Wholesale Unlimited Inc. is marking its 50th anniversary.

With 50 employees, a warehouse and seven stores, including smaller “express” locations, the business has come quite a distance since the early days when Betty Nagamoto delivered beef jerky and pepperoni sticks to mom-and-pop retail accounts out of her red 1958 Volkswagen Beetle.

The company now offers some 450 snack products, said Marc Honma, Betty’s son and company president.

It is easier to describe flavor categories than types of items, given the huge selection.

Flavors are savory, salty, or spicy with chewy or crunchy textures, and still include beef jerky.

The sweet snacks also run the gamut of flavors and textures, from crunchy to soft, chewy to melt-in-your-mouth crumbly, and include dark-chocolate-covered almonds in luminous metallic-looking jewel tones.

Some of the snacks are housemade or house-blended, some are obtained through local companies, and others are sourced from overseas.

The Wholesale Unlimited signature line of Betty’s Best cookies comes in various flavor combinations from best-selling corn flake to white chocolate chip macadamia nut, and all-butter shortbread cookies (or the lighter-in-texture all-butter shorties). Many other flavors make a shopper’s decision-making a bit challenging.

Increased demand, not just from retailers but from consumers requesting direct sales, meant Betty Honma would outgrow her VW Bug. From a facility in Nuuanu, she moved the company to bigger digs in Mapunapuna, though in a slightly different location from the current Ahua Street shop.

Beyond Oahu’s shores, Wholesale Unlimited products are available around the islands and in many mainland states as well.

Wholesale Unlimited offers a range of gift baskets to its individual and corporate clients ranging from $18.95 to $60, but also will prepare smaller amounts of goodies for party favors or centerpieces for a variety of occasions, from fancy to fun and casual.

Marc Honma, 44, grew up with the company and knew only that life. He spent some years on the mainland, returning to Hawaii “11 or 12 years ago,” and became president about two years ago.

Now in charge of the family business, his view of the company, and of his mother, has deepened.

“We’ve always known she was pretty amazing,”?he said, but added that her hard work, coupled with support from the family, immediate and extended, as well as the employees and customers over the decades, all added up to the business’ success and longevity.

“You can see it in the loyalty of our employees .and our repeat customers,”?he said. It is the customers the company seeks to thank with its 50th anniversary scratch card promotion. As with all Hawaii contests offering prizes, no purchase is necessary, and cards can be obtained via a stamped, self-addressed envelope. However, customers making purchases can scratch off their cards right at the register and redeem them right away for free products, or redeem the discount during the next visit.

“It’s a great business,”?Honma said. “You’re just making people happy.”

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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