Ultimate community supporter
Ultimate good citizen, Great Neck’s Yoshi Hirashima died recently. He was the longtime owner of Daruma Japanese Restaurant, the town’s premier spot where “anyone who’s anything” came to eat traditional Japanese food. Yoshi died in October while visiting Japan. The wide variety of beautifully prepared dishes was second only to the goodwill that shone in the smiling faces of Yoshi and his delightful wife Heidi.
Yoshi and Heidi were always on hand to be sure that each dish looked as good as it tasted and to be certain that their special Japanese chewing gum and some Asian candies were handed out to each child at the end of their meal.
Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Ted Rosen said, “Yoshi was an outgoing, warm and caring person.” Mayor Rosen, having also served many terms as deputy mayor of the village, knew Yoshi well. He said that he has known Yoshi for over 30 years and does not remember a time that he saw him without a smile on his face and always asking how he was.
Mayor Rosen said that Daruma Restaurant was, and continues to be, one of the longest operating and most successful restaurants in the Village. Obviously proud of Yoshi and Daruma, the Mayor stated: “Success has been due to its excellent food and the desire of its customers to see Yoshi. He was committed to the success of the Village and was a long-time sponsor of the Village’s summer concert series and supporter of many community events.”
Former Plaza Mayor Jean Celender was equally saddened by Yoshi’s passing. Mayor Celender also noted all of the honors and proclamations that the Village of Great Neck Plaza presented to Yoshi and his restaurant, Daruma. Mayor Celender spoke so highly of Yoshi, his fabulous restaurant and his big heart. Mayor Celender worked with Yoshi for decades during his rise in Great Neck since he opened Daruma Restaurant in 1989.
Not only was Daruma a great meeting place for youngsters, but for folks of all ages as well. One long-time resident, now ready for college, is proud to say that her infant seat sat on a Daruma chair or table frequently. Yoshi and Heidi loved all of the little customers and did their best to keep up with the news of all of the customers, from babies in carriages to the big ones ready to fly the nest.
Youngsters who were suddenly in middle school and anxious to go out without their parents were welcomed at Daruma. As for a birthday boy or girl, a fun assortment of Japanese cake and ice cream was brought out, complete with candles and a great rendition of Happy Birthday.
One young lady, a 16-year-old high school student, still insists on having dinner at Daruma the night before she leaves for camp or vacation and returns the first night back home. “There is no restaurant anywhere that prepares Japanese food like my friend Yoshi,” said the now young woman. She added that, once when she was very young she convinced her mom to take her to Daruma for dinner and the next night she convinced her dad to take her. On the third night, when her grandparents were the baby-sitters, it was no problem convincing them that they should visit Daruma.
Yoshi and Heidi’s love for their Great Neck community was not just limited to enjoying their customers. Daruma has a solid reputation for also lending a hand, and more, to community-wide efforts. Recognizing the fund-raising efforts and their well-known generosity, Yoshi and Heidi received a Proclamation in Celebration of Daruma of Tokyo’s 30th Anniversary in the Village of Great Neck Plaza.
Yoshi was honored for all he has given to the Village, including Yoshi’s strong desire to participate in the Plaza’s annual food drive. Noting that his restaurant has only fresh food, he decided to donate postal stamps. Yoshi made up 36 envelopes, each containing a Japanese good luck charm and 12 25 cent stamps. This was a real gift to Great Neck residents.
Mayor Rosen expressed the thanks of a grateful community, saying, “Yoshi always joined in all of this community’s efforts to help others.” Yoshi and Daruma were a wonderful addition to any local food festival and Daruma’s outdoor tables on beautiful days were always packed with customers. The sushi was original Japanese fare and there were Yoshi and his warm and friendly wife Heidi, greeting friends, old and new.
Mayor Rosen is proud that Daruma continues to be one of the longest operating and most successful restaurants in our Village. Mayor Rosen honored his friend Yoshi Hirashima stating: “Yoshi was kind and generous. We are grateful he chose the Plaza as the place in which to open his restaurant many years ago and we are grateful that he continued to operate the restaurant as he did for all these years. He will be missed.”
Wendy Karpel Kreitzman