Angel’s Share owner built (and lost) his own little Tokyo

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Unlike his poor clients, he seems calmly resigned to the situation. He still has a large – and growing – presence in Industry City. “I’m starting to say, maybe, should I keep up the pace?” he said. “Is it worth running the business? Or maybe start doing a new business again, even though I’m older now.

Tadao Yoshida was born in Niigata, Japan in 1945 and grew up in Yokohama, outside of Tokyo. Discouraged by the employment situation in Japan, he wonders, “Maybe I should be reborn? Start from scratch.” Although he spoke almost no English, he moved to New York in 1969. He was 24. He took ESL classes at New York University, but tuition was expensive and classes left him cold, so he opted for experience over education.. On his first adventures in the world of food, he was a dishwasher and sold grilled chicken skewers from a handcart.

In 1970, he got a job at a candy store called Ice Cream Connection. The owner, often out of town, paid Mr. Yoshida $1.25 an hour and taught him how to make ice cream. Catering to the hippie crowd, the shop sold flavors with names like Acapulco Gold and Panama Red. To these, Mr. Yoshida began to add his own creations, green tea and red bean ice creams, rare at the time. In these efforts to bring the flavors of its culture to the East Village, you can detect the origins of Dojo and everything else to come.

The East Village was dangerous then, and Mr. Yoshida was known to keep a long Japanese sword behind the ice cream counter for protection. A story goes that a young John Belushi, after seeing Mr. Yoshida hunt troublemakers with the sword, was inspired to create his recurring samurai character in “Saturday Night Live”.

“People have said that,” Mr. Yoshida admitted. “I’m not sure. After the samurai skit, people were like, ‘Tony, it’s you.’ »

The sword was not his only weapon. Mr. Yoshida was an early adopter of martial arts, including karate and aikido, and he wore loose shoes in his youth in case those skills were needed.

“Somebody tried to rob Dojo, with Tony standing there,” said Lorcan Otway, owner of Theater 80 St. Marks, a bohemian institution a block from Dojo. “He lifted his shoes and started kicking so his toe was just touching his chin, dragging the guy back to the street where he’d parked his getaway car, apparently. And Tony said, ‘You! Get in the car! Get out in the car!”

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