Business pioneer

Ambrosio Torres Shimizu (1909 -1988) is well known on Guam for he and his family’s success in business. His Japanese father Jose Katsuji Shimizu moved to the Mariana Islands in the early 1900s and has been credited for making rice a staple food on Guam. Jose married a Chamorro woman and established a copra and sugar trade route between Togcha, Yona in Guam and Japan. He also imported fabrics, food, and other supplies to sell at the Shimizu general store. He was given a Chamorro clan name, “Kacha’” (husking the coconut) for his copra plantations.

Although Ambrosio Shimizu never finished high school, exposure to his father’s businesses at an early age helped him to become one of Guam’s most prominent businessmen.

In the late 1940s, Shimizu partnered with Vance O. Smith and Vicente R. Palomo and founded Ambros Incorporated. The company got its start selling surplus military products and beer to civilians. They had wanted to sell Budweiser, but the beer’s distributor Anheuser-Busch initially turned them down. They obtained distributorship with Hamms Beer and kept inquiring about Budweiser. Finally, in 1948, Anheuser-Busch sent them 500 cases of beer on a trial basis. That shipment sold out in two days, so another 1,500 cases were shipped to Guam, and thus began Ambros’ Budweiser distributorship.

Palomo sold his share in the company and moved to California in 1949 to start another business. Meanwhile, Ambros kept growing. The company opened a warehouse in Asan and started selling whiskey, wine, and cigarettes. In 1961 Ambros began distributing Brown & Williamson products including Kool, Lucky Strike, Kent, Pall Mall, and other cigarettes. The warehouse was destroyed by Super Typhoon Karen in 1962, and Ambros relocated to a bigger warehouse on Ypao road in Tamuning.

Ambros obtained a Hiram Walker distributorship in 1973 and sold Ballantine, Canadian Club, Courvoisier, Kahlua, and other spirits. They eventually added Wente Vineyards and Louis Martini Wines to their growing list of liquor products.

Smith retired in 1973 and Shimizu invited his sons Joe and Frank to help him run the business. The alternative for Shimizu was to sell the company and retire. The two sons agreed and Ambros became a family-owned company. Paul, the youngest son, joined Joe and Frank in 1979.

In 1974, Ambros spread its market to include Saipan, where the Shimizus founded Marianas Pacific Distributors. Three years later, they opened a branch in Yap, then in Pohnpei and Palau in 1980 and in Chuuk in 1982. That year, they were also recognized for being the first Anheuser-Busch international wholesaler to sell more than a million cases of beer. They also opened SHIMBROS Audio/Productions and provided promotional entertainment and concerts to Guam. Their first concert was held at Paseo Stadium that summer with Elvin Bishop of San Francisco and notables such as Hawaiian’s Cecilio and Kapono, the Doobie Brothers, UB40, and Santana soon followed. SHIMBROS is now Guam’s leading sound reinforcement company and music store.

In 1983, a branch of Ambros in Majuro, Marshall Islands opened. That year, the company’s sales surpassed $10 million for the first time, and a year later they were recognized as Anheuser-Busch’s Export Wholesaler of the Year. The Shimizus then founded Ambros Micronesia Inc. in Palau and the Western Caroline Islands.

Ambros began to expand beyond the distribution of beer, spirits and tobacco. They obtained other product lines, increasing the amount of products they sold in local stores.

Ambrosio Shimizu passed away in 1988, but his business continues to live on and prosper. Shimizu showed his sons how to run the business correctly, exercise patience, think everything through and be very careful when giving out credit. Ambrosio Shimizu was a very conscious businessman, and his sons work hard to follow in his footsteps.

Ambros Incorporated continues to be a leading business on Guam and in Micronesia.

By Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, MFA

For further reading

Guam Chamber of Commerce. “Hall of Fame Laureate Profile: Ambrosio Torres Shimizu” (accessed 11 November 2014).