Businessman led
grocery chain with
loyalty, warmth

By Mary Vorsino

Albert Takeo Teruya, co-founder of Times Super Market Ltd. and son of Big Island plantation workers, instilled ambition and a strong work ethic in his seven children, his youngest son, Galen, said yesterday.

"(He told us) not to give up on anything. It doesn't matter what type of job you have."

The Hawaii entrepreneur died Sunday afternoon at his caretaker's home. He was 89.

Teruya came to Oahu in 1929, at 15, from the Honomu Plantation on the Big Island, where his parents emigrated in the early 1900s from Okinawa.

In Honolulu, the teen paid his bills with odd jobs -- dishwasher, waiter and cook -- and dreamed of one day being his own boss.

"He had a really, really hard background," but he never gave up, Galen Teruya said.

Twenty years later, Teruya, along with his brother Wallace, founded what would at one time be the third largest supermarket chain in Hawaii, Times Super Market Ltd.

In January, the Teruyas sold the grocery chain to a Northern California-based food stores company, PAQ Inc., for an undisclosed price.

From the company's start, Albert Teruya emphasized loyalty -- to customers and employees -- and creating a strong, steady customer base for the supermarket.

Doris Oshiro, a 32-year-veteran employee of Times, remembers when the Teruya brothers would tour the Aiea supermarket and chit-chat with employees and customers.

"I used to like the friendliness and concern," that the Teruya brothers had. "It (Times) is not as warm as it used to be before."

At home, the family-oriented Teruya told his children to "always try to better yourself" and taught fair business and hard work.

"On the business end, he was a very good balanced businessman. As a father, he was very helpful in directing us children," Galen said.

Albert and Wallace's first store sat on a 6,000-square-foot patch of land near McCully and King streets in April 1949. Twelve stores, including one in Nui Valley and Kahala, would follow over the next decades.

The brothers' first joint venture was the former 24-hour Times Grill on Kapiolani Boulevard in 1939. The brothers said they chose the name because it was easy to understand and be pronounced by immigrants. They also said they intended the name to symbolize the company's progressive image.

The supermarket -- the brainchild of their brother, Herman Teruya, who died in combat during World War II -- would later be named after the grill.

Dexter Teruya, Albert Teruya's nephew, remembers his uncle as a generous man who was an example for the Okinawan community in Hawaii of the possibilities open to those who strive. "He's from very modest roots. He has just seemed to have been so successful, but remained down to earth in character."

Galen said his father was a man dedicated to his family -- immediate, extended and Times.

"When I think back on how he raised us ... (always) trying to keep our focus on how to be successful ... he pretty much instilled in all of us a striving to move forward."

Services for Teruya will be held at Hosoi Garden Mortuary at 2 p.m. Aug. 3. He is survived by daughters Lorraine Yoshioka and Arlene Kozuma; sons Elton and Galen; and brother Wallace.

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