HAWAII AT WORK
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tom Eichler is production manager for Govinda's Fresh Juices, which has a juice-making factory in Iwilei. Above, Eichler last week prepped the company's juice presser, which extracts juice from carrots and apples.
Getting your juices flowing
Tom Eichler works hard every morning to bring you gallons of fresh juice
Tom Eichler has a tough work schedule, starting each day in Iwilei at about 2 a.m., but he enjoys helping produce a fresh, healthy product for Hawaii consumers at Govinda's Fresh Juices, which his brother Jim started in 1982.
Title: Production supervisor
Job: Supervises a staff of eight producing fresh juices
Tom, who is production supervisor for his older brother's company, acknowledged last week that the company's name has engendered confusion about its ownership, because "Govinda" is one of the names of the Hindu god Krishna and there have been restaurants in Honolulu through the years called Govinda's that were operated by local Krishna devotees. But Govinda's Fresh Juices, he said, is an independent corporation.
"I guess he had some interest in that (Eastern philosophy)," Tom said last week of his brother. "And he liked the name, which means 'One which is pleasing to the senses.' But he's been incorporated for many years (since 1987). He has no affiliation with any Hare Krishna group."
Tom Eichler, 45, said he moved here from New York in 1989 to join his brother, who had moved here in the mid-'70s. He is a graduate of Sanford H. Calhoun High School in Merrick, N.Y., and also attended Nassau Community College on Long Island, N.Y.
He is a resident of Kailua, where he and his wife, Lori, are raising their 12-year-old daughter, Sara.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Eichler showed off limes headed for squeezing. The company buys its fruits and vegetables both locally and from the mainland.
What is your work title?
Tom Eichler: I'm the production supervisor.
Q: How many people do you supervise?
A: I guess we have eight guys.
Q: Are they all really guys?
A: They are -- at this point, yes.
Q: What are most of them doing?
A: Well we're producing fresh juice, so we're making blends, blending juices, like apple and strawberry; we're running the fruit through the extractors, like the orange and grapefruit; they have to load the machine -- the extractor -- the machine is actually doing the extracting.
For the carrots and apples, they have to be washed, sanitized, grounded and pressed.
So they're doing those things.
And then we have to fill the bottles, so we have the filler machine, and they (the staff) load the empty bottles into the filler machine.
Once we get it all bottled up, then they're doing deliveries, to the supermarkets, health food stores, hotels and restaurants. We're servicing the outer islands also -- Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. We also send juice to Lanai, for the hotel.
Q: What is the typical working shift at Govinda's Fresh Juices?
A: We start at 2 a.m., and we usually work till about 11, 11:30 (a.m.). It's a five-day workweek. They're off Sundays and Thursdays.
Q: Why those two days?
A: We used to work six days a week, but then 9/11 occurred, and the hotels went empty, yeah? Thursday was our slowest day at the time, so we eliminated that day. And then sales came back, but we just figured it was better to give the guys two days off. We were able to make it work.
Q: Why do you all have to start so early each day?
A: We want to get the fresh product to the hotels and restaurants for breakfast, to give them the freshest product that was made that day.
Q: You have a fleet of trucks?
Q: How many hit the road?
A: We're using five vans.
Q: What about the cleaning every day?
A: It's extensive. It's the bulk of the day, actually. The production goes very quickly. But everything has to be broken down and washed, sanitized, and reassembled, so we have quite an extensive cleanup.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tom Eichler is production manager for Govinda's Fresh Juices, based in Iwilei. Above, Eichler last week checked over a fresh batch of orange juice to make sure the juice and the labels on the containers matched up.
Do you have a lot of worker turnover, or is everybody pretty happy working there?
A: I have a good core group, but because of the hours, it's kind of difficult. So I have several guys who have been here four or five years, and the others revolve. It's tough hours to work.
Q: Are you the guy that makes the decisions on hiring and firing, or do you consult with the owner?
A: Basically I take care of most of the hiring and firing because I'm the one working with them. If I need help with interviews, he's certainly there to help me, but everybody gets screened by me.
Q: The owner, Jim Eichler, is your brother, right?
A: That's correct.
Q: Are then any other Eichlers involved in the business?
Q: How and when did you get brought into the business?
A: Well I'm his younger brother; he's nine years my senior. He needed help, somebody to help him out that he could trust. So when I was in my 20s, back in '89, I came out from New York to give him a hand.
Q: What kinds of responsibilities at the company do you have?
A: I supervise what the guys are doing -- quality control -- make sure that they're doing their jobs properly, that the juices are going into the correct bottles, that they're dated correctly, that they have the proper temperature, and that it goes out on time. I order the raw products. I do everything from A to Z.
Q: Is there a lot of paperwork involved?
A: We have a lot of record keeping. We keep very strict records on our processing, the temperatures. ... Yeah, there's quite a bit of paperwork. Everything has to be documented as far as the processing.
A big part of my responsibilities is sanitization -- making sure the equipment is cleaned and sanitized properly, and that the workers are following good sanitary procedures -- washing their hands and handling the product in a sanitary manner. We document all that stuff, that the equipment was clean and tested. We do swab tests to be sure that machines are sanitized properly. That's a big responsibility right there, because it's really important when you're dealing with fresh products.
Q: What kind of juices are you and your colleagues making?
A: We have a line of about 14 flavors.
Q: Like what?
A: Well (Laughter), we have carrot juice, apple, pineapple, fruit punch, orange, apple-strawberry, protein energizer, Hawaiian smoothie -- I could fax you the list (laughter), but we're almost there -- orange passion, orange pineapple, lemon honey, lime cooler, guava, lilikoi, and ginger rush and spirulina punch.
Who comes up with these flavors?
A: Jim, the owner. He developed all the formulas.
Q: Which juices are the hardest or most complex to make?
A: I guess it would have to be one of the blends. Like a smoothie, where we have to mix papaya with the pineapple. Flavors like that would be the most involved.
Q: How much juice does Govinda's make each day?
A: It varies day to day. We make about 500 gallons of orange juice at the most, and about 125 to 150 gallons of carrot juice We make more orange juice than anything.
Q: Where do you get all your fresh fruits and vegetable?
A: Most of our produce is coming from the mainland, out of California -- most of the citrus, such as the oranges and grapefruit. Some of our oranges come out of Texas, during certain seasons. The apples are out of Washington.
Locally, we use papaya. We use watermelon. A lot of people like that. So we try to use what we can locally.
Q: Where do the carrots come from?
A: The carrots are out of California also.
Q: What kind of equipment do you use to make the juices?
A: For the citruses, we have an extractor, and for the carrots and apples, we use a hydraulic press. It presses, as opposed to being centrifugal.
Then we have the filler machine that fills the bottles. We have a screw press for the pineapple and papaya. A screw press pushes the product through a screen. We grind up the pineapple and send it through a screw press.
Then we have a vat of tanks, refrigerated tanks for holding the juices.
And we have a big blender -- it's called a vertical cut mixer -- which we use for breaking up puree -- banana and strawberries.
You'll also see on our labels that we use ultraviolet light (UVL) as opposed to pasteurization. Pasteurization kills all the harmful pathogens and bacteria, but it also kills naturally occurring enzymes and nutrients.
Also, when you pasteurize, you're heating it, so you're also altering the taste. But when you use the ultraviolet light, we're meeting the FDA regulations for destroying pathogens and bacteria, but we're not killing the naturally occurring enzyme and nutrients, so it stays fresh and intact. That's why everybody says it tastes so good.
For the citrus, by FDA regulation it doesn't need to be processed by the UVL, but it does have to meet strict sanitation conditions. All that information is on our labels.