Ushi and Kame Teruya emigrated from Okinawa in the early-1900s and settled on the Big Island’s Hāmākua coast where they worked for the sugar plantation before becoming independent sugar growers. The couple had six children – four boys and two girls.
Three brothers, Albert, Herman and Wallace, dreamed of creating a successful business in the ‘land of opportunity’ which Hawai‘i was to thousands of immigrants and their offspring.
In 1929, Albert, seeing no opportunity to improve his bleak life on the plantation, was the first to leave to work in Honolulu. Wallace followed a year later, and the rest of the family moved to Honolulu in 1933.
They lived in the Kapiʻolani district, where the Holiday Mart store is now located. The area was swamp land where many people farmed.
They started out working in restaurants. The Great Depression was on, and one benefit of restaurant work was that it provided room and board plus wages. The brothers worked 14 hours a day, but the enthusiasm of youth fueled by a dream of something better kept them going.
In 1935, the three brothers pooled their savings and bought the lunch counter/soda fountain at a downtown drug store for $600 and named it the T&W Lunchroom.
Three years later, in partnership with their cousin, Kame Uehara, with whom Albert had first lived in Honolulu, they opened ‘Times Grill’ at 635 Kapiʻolani Boulevard, offering 24-hour service.
The name ‘Times’ expresses a progressive attitude: “Keeping up with the times.” In addition, Times was easily pronounced by non-English speaking immigrants and it fit easily on a small sign.
Herman’s interest was in grocery stores; while a student at McKinley High School, from which he graduated in 1938, he would rush home after school and gather up vegetables and eggs his parents had raised. Herman’s dream was to open his own store, and he wanted Albert and Wallace to be his partners.
Two years later, Pearl Harbor was attacked. Herman and Wallace volunteered to serve in the US Army. They served with the most decorated infantry regiment of World War II – the 442d Regimental Combat Team.
Sgt. Herman Teruya, while charging up an Italian hill occupied by crack German soldiers made the supreme sacrifice (he died 3-months before his 25th birthday.) After the war, Wallace returned to Honolulu to resume his activities that began before the war.
In 1947, recognizing restaurant business is long hours, even after-hours, with bars and drinking involved, and after considering opening a variety store, Albert and Wallace thought there was more opportunity in the grocery business. So they sold Times Grill to a former employer at the Kewalo Inn, who had just returned from a California internment camp.
Albert conceded that Herman’s dream of opening a market played a part in their decision to open a market instead of a variety store. They began methodically learning the grocery business.
They got involved in different aspects of the business, working for suppliers, working for another supermarket, learning all the aspects of the grocery business so when they opened their own business, they had a broad perspective of all the different departments.
Wallace worked in Amfac’s grocery warehouse and at Tom, Dick and Harry’s market on Kapahulu. Albert worked at Sears, where he learned how a big company operates and about customer service.
On April 29, 1949, with the help of friends and family who helped stock shelves, they opened the first Times Supermarket, the McCully store at 1772 South King Street. That first store was small by today’s standards, but it was modern, well-stocked and air-conditioned.
When the family went on vacations to the Mainland, part of the itinerary was always checking out supermarkets. They would stop at every market they saw and pulled into the parking lot and see if there were any new ideas they could use in Hawai‘i.
In 1956, they opened their second store, in Wai‘alae-Kahala, which they dedicated to Herman. They put up a plaque to show they appreciated the ideas and dreams he had shared with them: “Dedicated in Memory of Herman T Teruya, Sergeant, USA, 1919-1944.”
Times has grown to include 24-supermarket locations which includes 17-Times locations, 5-Big Save Markets, a small-format supermarket on the East Side of Oahu (Shima’s Supermarket,) a fine wine + specialty foods shop (Fujioka’s Wine Times) and 12-pharmacy locations.
In 2002, Times was sold to California-based PAQ Inc, which owns and operates a chain of supermarkets in Central California and Hawai‘i. (Lots of information here is from Times, Chapman, Congressional Record and 100th Battalion.)