Sunday, September 29, 2002



Spreading aloha
to workers, customers

Times Super Market is intent
on customer service and
satisfaction, employees say

By Mary Vorsino

Doris Oshiro, a 32-year-veteran employee of Times Super Market in Aiea, remembers when, in the late '70s and early '80s, Times co-founder Wallace Teruya would drop by the store and greet her by name.

"He had a marvelous memory. ... The employees used to say, 'That's amazing. How in tarnation did he remember me by name?'" Oshiro said.

Melvin Ng, Times Niu Valley store director, can imagine Teruya and his brother, co-founder Albert Teruya, dropping by the store to chat and shake employees' hands.

"Albert and Wallace hired me, and they took care of the employee first. ... Wallace would come by and talk to you," said Ng, who joined Times in 1959.

Both Oshiro and Ng say the Times Super Markets chain -- the third largest in Hawaii -- is a family grocer, intent on a loyal customer base and a reputation for service and satisfaction.

Employees, Oshiro said, are family members who feel secure in their positions. Employers are friends.

Wallace Teruya, top at left, and Albert Teruya broke ground for one of their Times Super Markets.

The Teruyas sold Times Super Market Ltd. last April to Northern California-based grocery store operator PAQ Inc.

PAQ, the franchisee for six Food4Less grocery stores in California, is a home-grown in its own right. The company is run by founder, President and Chief Executive Officer John Quinn and named after Quinn's wife, Patricia Ann Quinn.

John Quinn told the Star-Bulletin in April, "We wanted to invest in Hawaii for some time, and Times is a solid company that really understands how to treat customers."

Oshiro said she holds hope in the new owners and expects the Times family to live on under them.

"I like it here," she said. "I have good customers ... and (Quinn) seems a little concerned" about the supermarket's reputation.

It was in 1949 that Albert and Wallace Teruya opened Times Super Market Ltd. on a 6,000-square-foot patch of land near McCully and King streets. The store had been the brainchild of brother Herman Teruya, who died in combat in World War II.

Above is a 1949 photo of the first Times, which opened that year at King and McCully streets. The chain now has 12 stores.

Albert and Wallace Teruya, nisei brothers whose parents emigrated from Okinawa to a Big Island plantation at the turn of the 20th century, were not the era's typical Hawaii entrepreneurs.

Albert Teruya had come to Honolulu in 1929 at 15 and worked as a dishwasher. Wallace joined him two years later. The two opened the 24-hour restaurant Times Grill in 1937 and later sold it to their former employer. The grill's name -- meant to symbolize "keeping up with the times" -- was later carried into the supermarket.

Wallace Teruya said in a July interview, "We felt that each customer was very important, and they were greeted with a 'hello' and assisted whenever and wherever needed."

The post-World War II economy pushed Times onward and upward, allowing the supermarket to bloom into a 13-store chain by the '80s and giving the Teruyas an edge on several Hawaii firsts: in-store air conditioning, self-service meat counters and "Price Cutter Cards," early versions of today's "Royal Card."

Times closed its Niu Valley store in August and has no immediate plans to expand the chain.

Times Super Market Ltd.

Founded: 1949

Founders: Brothers Albert and Wallace Teruya, originally of the Big Island

Named after: Their former venture Times Grill. It is meant to symbolize the company's attitude: "Keeping up with the times."

Number of employees: More than 900

Number of stores: 13, including first store at King and McCully streets; Niu Valley store closed last month, reducing the total to 12

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