Exclusive: Kuwahara’s Wholesale to reopen in Sandy without business license; still working with city toward code compliance

Alex Kuwahara, owner of Kuwahara Wholesale in Sandy, prepares to open for another season even though he won't have a proper business license by then. Photo: Gephardt Daily

SANDY, Utah, March 9, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — If you sell plants for a living in Utah, the time to open is right about now. After a meeting today with Sandy City officials, it looks like the popular Kuwahara Wholesale will open shortly for business, while they remain out of compliance with Sandy City codes.

Owner Alex Kuwahara met again with Sandy City officials in a scheduled meeting Monday, and later admitted he is a bit confused about just what to do: open, or not open. 

Two things remain certain: Kuwahara’s business and property at 8565 S. State St. still has violations, and Sandy City officials continue to work with the business to bring them into compliance. Mix that together with the fact that Kuwahara says if he does not open to earn money, there’s not much point in continuing to work with the city to come into code compliance because he would be out of business.  

Photo: Gephardt Daily

Sandy officials seem to agree with that.

Sandy City enforcers say the whole saga began back in 2013, when inspectors found various zoning, safety, and fire code violations. Both sides agree they have been working together over the years to bring the Kuwahara property into compliance. But then last October, Sandy City sent Kuwahara a letter saying “the business must discontinue, or the city would pursue criminal, civil, and/or administrative enforcement, pursuant to the Sandy City Municipal Code.”   

Kuwahara said the cost of what the city demanded would be about $1.2 million. He doesn’t have that kind of money, he says, and he would be forced to close. The city’s action resulted in a standing-room-only Sandy City Council meeting last month, where emotional supporters decried the prospect of Kuwahara Wholesale closing.

Photo: Gephardt Daily

As a result, city leaders agreed to meet again with Kuwahara days later, and it was agreed that the business could grow the plants for sale on the property greenhouses, but not actually sell them until the business is in compliance.

After Monday’s meeting, it appeared there was an understanding between Kuwahara and city officials. While Sandy City Mayor Kurt Bradburn would only say the city continues to work with the business, Alex Kuwahara said he plans to open soon and begin selling plants.

“They told us that we’re making a lot of progress,” Kuwahara said.“We’re doing everything right they said, and they’re doing everything they can to help us.What we came to find out is that we can make this work, but it’s not going to happen this year. It may take another year or two.”

Photo: Gephardt Daily

All along, Sandy City officials have said that the Kuwahara Wholesale business and property violations do not pose a life-threatening safety hazard to customers. So, Kuwahara says officials told him they can’t stop the business from opening.

“So, we can open, but they’re not going to give us a business license, and we might get a ticket. But, we’re all working together [on city code violations]. They said they can’t close us down, just maybe give us a ticket. And the only way we can stay alive is by opening up.”

Kuwahara says he’s not out of the financial woods yet, but he doesn’t have to come up with more than a million dollars instantly. He says he’s in debt, and his credit cards are maxed out in improvements he’s made so far. He has set up a GoFundMe account asking for help at http://www.gofundme.com/f/save-sandy-kuwahara.

The next meeting between Sandy City officials and Alex Kuwahara is in three weeks. 

Kuwahara plans to be open by then, but most likely without a Sandy City business license.

Alex says the upcoming meeting will allow both sides to review and acknowledge the progress being made, as they continue to work together to bring the popular Sandy business into full compliance.

1 COMMENT

  1. No life threatening hazards to his customers should be all that is needed. Anything more then that is Sandy city over stepping their authority. We need small business to thrive to keep our community viable. If the city council doesn’t realize that small business is a asset to our community then we need to elect representatives who can understand the concept. Violations for other then hazards to the public is nothing but harassment when small business is involved the key word is small.

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