Times reaches for Star in supermarket merger


POSTED: Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Times Super Market, founded 60 years ago by the sons of Okinawan immigrants, is buying 82-year-old Star Markets in a deal that brings together two longtime fixtures in the Hawaii food service industry.

Honolulu-based QSI Inc., the parent of Times, and Star Markets jointly announced yesterday that they have signed a definitive agreement for QSI to buy Star's seven supermarkets, which will be re-branded with the Times name.

Financial terms were undisclosed, but the transaction is expected to close in early September and—barring any changes—will create a local giant with a combined 19 supermarkets and 1,640 employees.

The acquisition will expand Times' presence to the neighbor islands. Times, which has 1,100 employees, operates 12 full-time supermarket and pharmacy locations on Oahu and also has two fine-wine and specialty food shops, Fujioka's Wine Times, along with Shima's Market in Waimanalo.

“;This is a huge step for our business and will be good for consumers,”; said John Quinn, president and chief executive officer of QSI. “;Today we are combining two longtime kamaaina companies to create a powerful new brand in the local grocery industry.”;

Times was founded on Oahu in 1949 by Albert and Wallace Teruya, sons of Okinawan agreements, to serve Hawaii's plantation communities.

The Fujieki family, which opened Star Markets in 1927, decided earlier this year to leave the grocery business, and Patrick Fujieki, chairman of Star Markets, said “;our founders (Tsuenjiro and Mika Fujieki) would bless this decision to merge with Times because it is clear to us that Times recognizes the importance of our dedicated employees and their families.”;

Star Markets, which closed stores in Kaneohe and Kahala in 2007 and in Kahului, Maui, last year due to either growing competition or lease issues, has four stores remaining on Oahu (Moiliili, Kamehameha, Mililani and Ewa Beach), two on Maui (Honokowai and Kihei) and one on Kauai (in Lihue).

In yesterday's news release there was one reference to “;five”; remaining stores following the acquisition, but Times spokesman Frank Cho called the number an error and said it should have been “;seven.”;

However, Pat Loo, president of United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 480, said he had heard rumors that CVS Caremark Corp., which recently acquired Longs Drug Stores, would be taking over the Moiliili and Ewa Beach sites.

Cho said he could not “;comment on that right now.”;

“;Times is focused on completing the acquisition of Star Markets over the next several weeks,”; he said.

Bob Stout, senior director of store operations for Times, said that Times “;will honor all seniority and labor agreements already in place with Star employees.”;

In regards to any potential layoffs, Cho said Times was not elaborating beyond Stout's statement.

Star Markets has 540 employees, including a little more than 40 meat cutters, fish cutters, meat wrappers and chill-frozen workers on Oahu who are represented by the UFCW. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union represent the meat cutters on Maui, while the Kauai store has no union representation.

Front-end personnel, such as cashiers, are not represented by a union, Loo said.

Loo said the UFCW is hoping to meet with Times “;shortly”; and that “;hopefully in the talks we have, we'll iron out how many people can be absorbed,”; he said.

Times and the Hawaii Teamsters & Allied Workers Local 996, which represents that company's meat cutters, wrappers and utility workers, have been at odds in the past over medical-leave benefits that resulted in a three-week strike beginning in December 2007 which hurt the company's business.