Kazuko celebrated decades of ownership at PWB
Kazuko Komatsu died July 27, 2018 after a long, valiant battle with cancer, but her legacy lives with us daily.
Kazuko was born in Japan and came from a family endowed with a rich Samurai heritage.
She was brought up to cherish many of the Samurai principles such as benevolence, love, affection for others, and sympathy.
After moving from Japan to Canada in the late 1970s, Kazuko began buying and exporting Canadian goods to Japan. This included such products as herring, peat moss, log homes and PWB's Dragon Dry beer. In 1990, however, the owners of Pacific Western Brewing had run into serious financial difficulties; even the unionized employees had not been paid for two months, and efforts to sell the operation to Cariboo’s larger competitors such as Labatt and Molsons were unsuccessful. Kazuko decided to buy the company and a year later became the brewery’s seventh and longest-serving owner and the first Asian-Canadian brewery owner in Canada.
After Kazuko took ownership of the company, rather than eliminate the union, she embraced it and salvaged 50 well-paying jobs. She went about rebuilding the company using two basic concepts: quality and innovation. Kazuko pursued and obtained the ISO 9001 quality manufacturing standard in 2004 – a first for a brewery in North America. In 2005, the brewery became the first Canadian brewery to be awarded a gold medal at the Industry International Awards in Munich, Germany.
Kazuko also developed and marketed to Japan a low-malt beer known as Happoshu that quickly became popular among consumers.
Kazuko owned PWB for more than 27 years and during that time she grew the business, the workforce and its contributions to the Prince George Community as well as the BC and Alberta communities emphasizing three things: quality, quality, and quality.
PWB has supported many community initiatives such as Water Shoreline Clean-up projects, University of Northern BC, Kordyban Cancer Treatment Lodge, reforestation, salmon stock rehabilitation, the Peak Performance Project in support of music artists, Spirit of the North Health Care Foundation and support to local athletes and teams through the Hometown Heroes Program as well as its successful bid to become an official sponsor of the 2015 Canada Winter Games.
Kazuko overcame significant challenges to make contributions to her community:
- New to Canada, Kazuko worked hard to become proficient in the English language and thrive in the Canadian business community.
- Even though her brewery is located in the Interior, Kazuko has sought out markets for PWB products throughout the rest of BC, in Alberta, Japan, US, China, Argentina, France, and Russia.
- While classified as a mid-sized brewery in BC, PWB is a small brewery in comparison to its large global competitors such as Labatt and Molsons. However, Kazuko continued to develop PWB globally despite its small size while re-building the company and actively competing against much larger breweries. The fact that six previous owners were incapable of making the brewery a viable business is a testament to Kazuko's leadership strength.
1) BC Senior Men's Baseball: ten-year sponsorship ($130K) to enable winning teams to travel to host cities for the Western Conference and National championships.
2) Peak Performance: financial support to assist new and emerging young BC music artists develop their full potential.
3) Spirit of the North Health Care Foundation: financial assistance for the purchase of medical equipment to support improved healthcare at the University Hospital of Northern BC, Prince George, BC.
4) University of Northern BC: financial support for the library, scholarships, bursaries, and the Charles Jago Northern Sport centre.
5) Simon Fraser University: helped establish the Jack Austin Centre for Asia Pacific Business Studies to stimulate research and community outreach.
6) Established Hometown Heroes program to support local athletes reach their national or international dreams with bursaries.
7) Contributed $100K to the Building of Kordyban Lodge operated by the Canadian Cancer Society to assist patients recovering from or undergoing treatment.
8) Developed a program to replant BC forests that have been devastated by the effects of the Mountain Pine Beetle, which was applauded by the Ministry of Forests. PWB is committed to replanting one million trees by 2020.
9) Supporting the Priest Valley Vicars Rugby Club, an over 40's rugby club located in Okanagan Valley.
10) University of Alberta Hospital: contributions toward the purchase of a state of the art Gamma knife for delicate brain surgeries.
11) Canuck Place Children's Hospice: support for specialized pediatric palliative care for children living with a life-threatening illness and their families.
12) Official Sponsor of the 2015 Canada Winter Games that were held in Prince George, BC in support of athletes and the community.
13) Salmon enhancement - financial support for volunteer associations toward the rehabilitation of salmon bearing streams.