Visionary tourism pioneer

After serving in the European theater in World War II, Earl Edward Kloppenburg took advantage of the federal government’s offer granting tax-free income to people who would help in the rebuilding of Guam. At the age of 28 years, he signed a one-year contract with the Pomeroy Construction Company to assist in the building of the Glass Breakwater in Apra Harbor.

Dining opportunities

After completing his contract with Pomeroy, Kloppenburg decided he was not quite ready to give up the island life and sought other opportunities in Guam. Taking on a job as a salesman, he saved up his resources. In 1950 he opened Guam Factors, an import business focusing in specialty foods from the United States. He then opened Guam’s first Western-style, fine-dining restaurant called The Office in the Anigua section of Hagåtña.

The new dining experience quickly became one of the most popular restaurants on island and a meeting place for politicians and businessmen. Riding on the success of The Office, Kloppenburg expanded his interests with the opening of more restaurants including the Specialty House, Earl’s Hut Restaurant, the 40–unit Earl’s Hut motel in Tamuning, the Hideaway in Hågat, the Coffee Pot in Hagåtña, Crow’s Nest in Sinajana and the Tapa Room in the Royal Lanes Bowling Alley. In 1964 he consolidated all his businesses and founded Kloppenburg Enterprises, Inc.

With the lifting of the security clearance in Guam by the US military in the early 1960’s and the Vietnam War, there was an increase in the number of air flights coming in and out of Guam. These long trans-Pacific flights did not include food service and Kloppenburg seized the opportunity. Working with Pan American Airways, he opened Guam’s first flight catering service called Pacific Island Caterers. The catering service became one of the largest employers on Guam as it expanded once again to service the US military flights on stopovers during the Vietnam War. This once little island catering service has transformed into LSG Skychefs servicing seven major airlines and generating nearly 5,000 meals a day.

In 1963 Typhoon Karen devastated the island, destroyed the Hideaway restaurant, and wreaked havoc on a number of Kloppenburg retail food and beverage establishments. With his main focus now on airline catering service, Kloppenburg began to realign and consolidate his varied business interests.

Turtle Tours born from busing need

One morning in 1968, his children waited for a local school bus that never came. The kids walked home and called to tell their father about the missing buses. Kloppenburg discovered that a cruise ship had pulled into Apra Harbor and with no private buses available, government school buses were contracted to transport the passengers of the cruise ship. He immediately recognized that a privately owned bus company was sorely needed for tourism to grow on Guam and Turtle Tours, Inc. was born.

A huge supporter of tourism for Guam, Kloppenburg concentrated on his new tourism related business and Turtle Tours soon became Guam’s primary tourist transport and charter company. By this time the Crow’s Nest in Sinajana had become the largest restaurant on Guam. Further expanding on his tourism vision, he opened Paradise Piers, a water sports and beach bar in Malesso’ as well as a 60-unit A-frame cabin facility called Turtle Cove along Ylig Bay in Yona. Both facilities were destroyed in May 1976 by Supertyphoon Pamela.

Undaunted, Kloppenburg continued to push tourism as a main economic driver and was instrumental in the creation of the Guam Tourism Commission, Guam’s first visitor’s bureau.

Kloppenburg’s businesses were not limited to Guam. In Saipan, he opened Turtle Tours Micronesia, Inc, establishing water-related recreational facilities, a hotel and The Office restaurant.

Kloppenburg was actively involved in many organizations including the Guam Chamber of Commerce, the Air Force Association of Guam, the Navy League, Guam Visitors Bureau, and the Japan Guam Travel Association. In 1990 he was awarded one of Guam’s most prestigious honors – the Ancient Order of the Chamorri – for his numerous contributions to the island and its economy by Governor Joseph F. Ada. He was also named Honorary Ambassador-at-Large.

Kloppenburg married his wife, Lois, at the St. Francis Church of Assisi in Yona in 1950 and together they raised six children until his death in 1991.

Kloppenburg’s legacy continues in the businesses that are now being operated by his sons, Bruce, Tom, and Travis. Kloppenburg Enterprises Inc. is comprised of development companies, real estate holdings, and four tours – a sunset cruise, a semi-submersible submarine, a riverboat cruise, and a dolphin-watching cruise. Turtle Tours operates three divisions of transportation for tourism, the military, and Guam Mass Transit. Kloppenburg was recognized as a Guam Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame Laureate in 1997.

By Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero, MFA

For further reading

Congratulating the Kloppenbburg Family for Being Named the 2008 Family-Owned Business of the Year on Guam. 110th Cong. Congressional Record 154, pt. 3: 4447.

Guam Legislature. Relative to Congratulating Kloppenburg Enterprises, Inc.... Resolution 129 (LS). 29th Guam Legislature. 13 March 2008.

Kloppenburg Enterprises, Inc.About Us.”