Kathy Nakagawa

Dr. Kathy Nakagawa is a native Arizonan and Japanese American whose family moved to the state before World War 2. Her father and her grandparents began by renting land to farm in South Phoenix before they were placed into internment camps during the war. After being released from the camps her family bought land on Baseline Road and continued farming flowers and other plants.

Dr. Kathy Nakagawa, Fall 2018

As a child, Dr. Nakagawa remembers spending lots of time at the Baseline Flower Growers. She recalls, while her family’s home was in Tempe, they spent most time at her family’s flower gardens. She described how her grandmother’s house was on the property where the current day Lin’s Buffet is, and how her father built a small bridge to cross over the canal so that they were able to get to her grandmother’s. Dr. Nakagawa shared that as small children, she and her sister would play with the many small princess of the month toys as well as the Arizona trinkets that her father had at Baseline Flower Growers, and how they would take naps inside of the cabinets her father had built into the shop. She and her sister loved exploring the gardens, riding their bikes, and rollerblading up until the time in which they started school.

Future Video Clip (8:45): “It was so fun here because there was the flower shop and the acres of flowers. My grandma’s house was right over there where the Chinese Buffet restaurant is now. So we would cross the canal… and cross Baseline, and walk through the fields… As a kid, it was a different experience.”

As she got older, Dr. Nakagawa decided  not to pursue a career at Baseline Flower Growers. She did not want to rely on her parents for career stability, so she took jobs at different places. Dr. Nakagawa wasn’t interested in running the family business then, however she now jokes with her family that maybe she’ll come and run the business in the future. She attended the University of Notre Dame in Indiana for college. Neither one of her parents had attended college and she was undecided as to where she wanted to attend. She waited a while to apply and then chose the University of Notre Dame as they had a later date for applications. She was accepted and attended school where she studied Modern Languages and Computer Applications as well as Japanese. She then continued on to get her masters and doctorate degree and is now a professor at Arizona State University, as well as a speaker at many storytelling events in South Phoenix.

Baseline Flower Growers, Facebook.com

The Nakagawa family’s Baseline Flower shop used to be very large. As the community of South Phoenix began to grow and new things were being built, the Nakagawa’s flower farm and shop was affected. Baseline Flower Growers used to be on the opposite side of the street when it first began. After fighting with the city, they finally were able to get a layout for Baseline Flower Growers that they approved of at their present day address, 3801 E Baseline Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85042.

Dr. Nakagawa stays involved in South Phoenix by taking part in marking the area as a tourist attraction even after the land has been bought and built up. Kathy hopes that in the next 40 years the Baseline Flower Growers remains standing.  However, she believes it would be hard to imagine the business without her father there. Some future dreams for Baseline Flower Growers include continuing to sell flowers, as well as a possible farmers market and  museum. Lastly, Kathy hopes that Baseline Flower Growers one day can serve as a sort of community space where events such as storytelling or other classes and events can be held as it would be helpful to the community as well as helping continue the memory of the communities and families that were influential to the South Mountain Community.

Dr. Kathy Nakagawa and her father, Nick Nakagawa (center) at the Baseline Flower Shop, Fall 2018
Student Researchers: Vanessa Gutierrez, Allyssia Sanchez, Guadalupe Romero, & Mario Cervantes

Student Writers: Vanessa Gutierrez & Allyssia Sanchez, Fall 2018