Kazuko Komatsu, owner and CEO of Pacific Western Brewing, has died after a long battle with cancer. Komatsu died on Friday, according to a media release issued by the local company.
"We are devastated by her loss," said Tom Leboe, the brewery's manager through most of Komatsu's tenure as owner and CEO. "Kazuko has been an inspiration to all of us over the past 27 years. Her style of leadership taught us to strive to be better every day and to excel at every task. Through good times and bad, her loyalty and commitment to the PWB family and to the community has been extraordinary."
Komatsu recently reflected on some of her accomplishments at PWB.
"In 2016, I was proud to celebrate my 25th anniversary as the owner of Pacific Western Brewing and in 2017 I was equally proud to join with all of Prince George as we marked the 60th year of brewing at our home base next to the Nechako River," she is quoted as saying in Monday's release. "My goals have always been to produce quality products and to invest where we live. After a quarter century leading the PWB team, those goals carry me forward."
Komatsu was born in Japan and moved to Canada in the late 1970s. At that time, she began buying Canadian goods and exporting them to Japan. One of these products was PWB's Dragon Dry beer.
PWB ran into financial problems in 1990. The situation was so bad, according to the release, that unionized employees went two months without getting paid. Komatsu decided to buy the struggling company and, in 1991, became its seventh owner and the first Asian-Canadian brewery owner in Canada.
After she took ownership of PWB, Komatsu invested in the improvement of the brewing process and rebuilt the company's brand by focusing on quality and innovation. In 1994, PWB was granted ISO 9001 status, a mark of the highest level of quality in manufacturing standards. In 2005, PWB became the first Canadian brewery to be awarded a gold medal at the Industry International Awards in Munich, Germany.
PWB's community initiatives during Komatsu's ownership included: shoreline clean-up projects; salmon stock rehabilitation; support to local athletes and teams through the Hometown Heroes Program; and financial backing for the planting of 100,000 seedlings to help B.C.'s recovery from last summer's wildfires.
PWB has also been a supporter of the University of Northern British Columbia and was an official sponsor of the 2015 Canada Winter Games, the year they were held in Prince George.