Story by Sarah Ruppenthal | Photography by Joe West
Bruce Johnson feels most at home out on the water, but his Lāna‘i estate comes in a close second. “It’s my dream house,” he says. “If I’m not on my boat, this is where I want to be.”
It’s easy to see why. The nearly 5,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath residence has all the trimmings: a saltwater pool, cedar sauna, plant nursery, three levels of gardens, and jaw-dropping views of Mānele Bay and Pu‘u Pehe, the iconic sea stack known as Sweetheart Rock.
Bruce, a fisherman and restaurateur, and his wife, Myong, affectionately call the sparsely populated island “Planet Lāna‘i.” With no traffic lights or twenty-four-hour grocery stores, Lāna‘i seems a world away from the hustle and bustle of Honolulu, where the couple has a condo. (Bruce’s two restaurants are on O‘ahu.)
When he was seventeen, Bruce moved from California to Kona, where he landed his first fishing gig. He got his captain’s license at twenty-one and quickly made his mark on Hawai‘i’s commercial fishing industry. He moved to Maui at the age of twenty-four, and not long after, started his own seafood distribution company, Fresh Island Fish, at Mā‘alaea Harbor. He eventually decided to try his hand at running a restaurant, and opened Uncle’s Fish Market & Grill (the name is a nod to the mentors he’s had over the years) at Honolulu Harbor’s Pier 38; a second location opened in Central O‘ahu in late 2018.