CARMEL — Floral entrepreneur Toshikiyo “Andy” Matsui, 85, died peacefully in his sleep on Dec. 11 at The Cottages of Carmel.
Matsui was born on March 1, 1935 into a traditional farm family in rural Nara Prefecture. As a young man, he participated in the Ministry of Agriculture training programs that sent him to California and introduced him to new possibilities.
In 1964, he emigrated to the U.S. along with his wife, Yasuko, and first daughter. The couple worked as laborers in Japanese-owned flower nurseries in the Bay Area until they were able to start their own operations in leased greenhouses.
In 1969, Matsui bought 40 acres of land outside Salinas to establish his own nursery. Over the years, he earned a reputation as a top-quality flower grower with a knack for innovation and industry leadership. He successfully guided Matsui Nursery through multiple product transformations in response to changing business conditions.
In the mid-1990s, at an age when many people contemplate retirement, Matsui converted his nursery to potted orchid production. Working with national chains such as Trader Joe’s, he pioneered the sale of potted orchids in grocery stores. Today, Matsui Nursery offers the greatest selection of orchid varieties of any large-sale commercial orchid nursery in the U.S.
In 2004, the couple established the Matsui Foundation as their way to support the educational aspirations of underserved students in the Salinas Valley and Monterey County. Starting with the grant of a single scholarship to a graduating senior from Gonzales High School – their daughters’ alma mater – it has distributed more than $8 million in college scholarships.
Matsui is survived by his wife of 62 years, Yasuko, a renowned student and private instructor of the Urasenke School of Japanese tea ceremony; daughters Teresa (Walter) and Kathy (Jesper); sons William (Elizabeth) and Paul (Jennifer); and grandchildren Tycho, Pria, Margaret, and Cameron.
The family plans to hold a celebration of life when it is again safe to gather.
“Andy would be the first to acknowledge that, in addition to hard work and taking risks, his good fortune was aided by luck and the assistance of others,” his family said in a staement. “His prosperity and prominence were always the source of delighted surprise; his life and achievements far exceeded anything he could have imagined as a young farmer in rural Japan. You can honor his memory by supporting another striver.”
View the online memorial here.