Historic San Jose Laundry could be transformed into a new restaurant

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SAN JOSE – A nine-decade-old historic building in San Jose’s Japantown neighborhood that was once a laundry and fish market could find new life as a restaurant.

The potential development site consists of three lots containing a two-story brick structure known as the Nishioka Building, which was constructed in 1929, according to a LinkedIn post and a representative for the property owner.

The property is located at addresses from 657 to 665 N. 6th St. in San Jose’s Japantown and is across from a large mixed-use complex consisting of apartments and retail shops on the ground floor.

“This is a very appropriate location because it’s across the street and close to new housing,” said Hamid Panahi, general manager at HP Atelier, a Campbell-based architectural firm.

Historic building and former fish market site at 657 through 665 N. 6th St. in the Japantown neighborhood of San Jose, elevated view.

Originally constructed in 1929, the building housed Ichimatsu Tsurukawa’s laundry. According to a post on California Japantowns’ website, Tsurukawa operated Ideal Laundry on the website.

“It was purchased in 1937 by the K. Inukai Co., which sold commodities such as pesticides and fertilizers to local farmers,” according to the California Japantowns website.

In 1942, amid the war-related internment of American citizens of Japanese descent, the building operated as a hair salon and then a restaurant.

Nishioka Bros. purchased the building in 1949 and began operating the Nishioka Brothers Fish Market and Grocery Store on the property.

The Fish Market was the last occupant of the building, which became vacant sometime around 2005, according to a post on the San Jose Public Library website. Since then, the building has been continuously boarded.

In 2021, the current owner bought the three parcels including the old building.

San Jose residents Lawrence Wu and Mealea Men paid $1.9 million for the property, according to documents filed with the Santa Clara County Clerk’s Office.

A few weeks ago, the new owner filed documents with the San Jose planning board, asking city officials what it would take to open a restaurant in the brick building.

“A restaurant should do pretty well there,” Panahi said. “We will examine the possibilities.”

A restaurant business could benefit from the two-building complex across the street that would offer Japantown 518 residential units and 17,000 square feet of retail space.

“We’re considering setting up a two-story restaurant there and also using the back of the building for dining,” Panahi said.

A structural survey is to be carried out in the 93-year-old building, he added.

“This could be a very exciting project,” said Panahi. “We’re happy to be there.”

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