Claire Takashima, left, is with her mom and dad, Kazue and Yoichiro Uyeda. Claire is the third generation to run the store, and is the owner. Yoichiro's dad opened the store 88 years ago, then Yoichiro took over until he retired in 1980.

Uyeda Shoe Store’s
family tradition
good for business

For 88 years, the shop has kept
the close-knit clan helping out

By Leila Fujimori

Claire Takashima is a perfect fit as the third-generation owner of the Uyeda Shoe Store.

She has a passion for shoes and knew when she was 5 or 6 that she wanted to take over the family-run store at the corner of University Avenue and South King Street.


When her father decided to retire in 1980, Takashima was studying business administration at the University of Hawaii and selling shoes at Liberty House.

"He asked me one day, 'How many weeks' notice do you need to give Liberty House before you quit?' I said two weeks. He said, 'OK, then, can you give notice?'"

Takashima, then 26, jumped at the chance to head the retail business that has found a niche selling comfortable footwear.

Under her leadership, the 88-year-old store continues to employ only family members and cater to a loyal clientele, many of whom are referred by podiatrists.

"The business keeps the family very close," said Takashima's mother, Kazue Uyeda, who works at the store.

Takashima's father also pitches in, but he prefers chatting with customers and leaves the more physical shoe-fitting chores to his wife.

Takashima's sister, Beverly Hashimoto, a Roosevelt High School teacher who in 2000 received the Oceanic Outstanding Educator's Award, works at the store after school and on Saturdays when Takashima is away on buying trips.

"It's been a family tradition," Takashima's mother said, referring to family involvement from the beginning.

Takashima's grandfather, Saijiro, an immigrant from Hiroshima who learned to repair shoes, founded the business the year his first child (Takashima's father) was born. He opened a tiny shoe store on Fort Street in downtown Honolulu, with cramped living quarters in the back for his family.

Saijiro and his wife, Hatsuno, ran the store and all of their eight children helped out. The store moved to North King Street in Palama, and then in 1957 to its current location at University Square.

Takashima's father took over the business when he was about 23. Her mother worked three days a week, 12 hours a day while Takashima and her siblings were young. Her grandmother helped baby-sit, and worked six days a week after the children grew up.

Takashima said her grandmother's business sense and diplomacy helped the store thrive. Her grandmother used to keep apples and oranges on hand to give to children to keep them occupied while the adults shopped for shoes.

Takashima's father also enlisted his children -- two boys and two girls -- to help at the store.

"We all had to come to the store in the morning," Takashima said. "We ate all our meals together and worked from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. That's how we bonded."

Yoichiro Uyeda said work at the store gave his children good social skills, allowing them to overcome shyness and learn to talk comfortably with people.

The family members are close not only because they worked together; they played together, too. Takashima's father took the family out boating, skiing and fishing every Sunday.

While the family business continues to be a success, there's no heir-apparent after Takashima. Her 19-year-old son has no interest in the business.

Takashima's two brothers, Alan Uyeda, a retired state civil defense employee, and Kevin Uyeda, a Verizon Hawaii employee, pitch in when needed.

Takashima, 48, said she aims to keep the business going for at least another 12 years, until it turns 100 years old.

Although the business may not continue in the family, Takashima's father said he is not disappointed.

"Not many small businesses like ours can carry on the name for 100 years," he said.

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