SAN JOSE — A nine-decade-old historic building in San Jose’s Japantown district that once was a laundry and fish market might gain new life as a restaurant.
The potential development site consists of three parcels that include a two-story brick structure known as the Nishioka Building that was constructed in 1929, according to a LinkedIn post and a representative for the property owner.
The property has addresses that range from 657 through 665 N. 6th St. in San Jose’s Japantown and is across the street from a major mixed-use complex consisting of homes and ground-floor retail.
“This is a very suitable location given that it’s across the street and near new housing,” said Hamid Panahi, principal executive with HP Atelier, a Campbell-based architectural firm.
Originally constructed in 1929, the structure housed the laundry works of Ichimatsu Tsurukawa. Tsurukawa operated Ideal Laundry on the site, according to a post at the California Japantowns website.
“It was purchased in 1937 by the K. Inukai Co., which sold merchandise such as pesticides and fertilizers to local farmers,” the California Japantowns site stated.
In 1942, amid the war-related internment of American citizens of Japanese descent, a barbershop and then a restaurant operated in the building.
Nishioka Bros. bought 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 site. The building has been shuttered continuously since then.
In 2021, the current owner bought the three parcels, including the old building.
Lawrence Wu and Mealea Men, San Jose-based individuals, paid $1.9 million for the property, according to documents filed with the Santa Clara County Recorder’s Office.
A few weeks ago, the new owner filed documents with the San Jose Planning Department to ascertain from city officials what would be required to open a dining establishment in the brick building.
“A restaurant should do pretty well there,” Panahi said. “We’re going to look into the possibilities.”
A dining enterprise could benefit from the two-building complex across the street that would bring 518 residential units and 17,000 square feet of retail to Japantown.
“We’re thinking about having a two-story restaurant there and utilizing the back of the building as well for dining,” Panahi said.
A structural investigation is slated to be conducted in the 93-year-old building, he added.
“This could be a very exciting project,” Panahi said. “We are happy to be involved with it.”