Fujioka's among last family groceries to quit
By Will Hoover
Advertiser North Shore Writer
|Lynne Johnson, left, and Lois Wallace wait by the benches at Fujioka's Supermarket in Hale'iwa. Customers were making their last visits to the store yesterday.
Rebecca Breyer The Honolulu Advertiser
"That's our last day," said Greg Fujioka, 54, a third-generation member of the family-operated North Shore business founded by his grandfather in turn-of-the-century plantation surroundings.
"This is not a sad story, we're just moving into a different area," added his brother, Norman Fujioka, 48, operations manager.
The store will reopen next month as Malama Market, operated by the Kalama Beach Corp. But the passing of Fujioka's leaves only a handful of old-time grocery operations on O'ahu with the kind of history that reaches back to plantation days.
Yesterday, their mother, Eloise Fujioka, 83, sat on a bench by the store's entrance and talked about Fujioka's beginnings before she was born.
"It was back in horse-and-buggy days," she said with a smile and fond chuckle.
She said the parents of her late husband, Hiroshi, arrived in Waialua from Japan in 1899.
Hiroshi's father, Ryutaro Fujioka, began as a plantation worker with the Waialua Sugar Mill, but within a few years the couple moved into and ran the plantation store across from the Waialua Hongwanji Buddhist Mission.
Nine family members were born in that store. Fujioka's, one of the first locations in Hawai'i to have a liquor license after Prohibition ended, was open from dawn until late every night. It became a favorite community gathering place.
The family later opened a second, larger Fujioka's store in Waialua town that burned down in 1972. In 1985, the family opened the supermarket in Hale'iwa. In August 1997, not long after the sugar mill closed, Fujioka's original store in Waialua went out of business.
By that time, family-owned markets on O'ahu, worn down by a stagnant economy and mounting competition from big-box retailers, were fighting to stay alive.
For Norman Fujioka, the handwriting was on the wall.
"We're dinosaurs," he said last year. "After this generation goes, we're pretty much done."
"Done" came sooner than expected.
Only a handful of small, family-owned grocery operations survive on O'ahu.
"Our cycle with the grocery business is ending," Greg Fujioka said yesterday. He plans to pursue the artistic career he gave up to help run the family business. "We're moving on to another chapter in our lives."
Norman Fujioka said the family would continue to oversee the building at 66-190 Kamehameha Highway, the land it sits on and several adjacent properties, which the family owns.
But the Fujioka name will be missing.
Yesterday, customers were making their last visits to the store.
"The old-timers are all gone now," said Tadashi Shimaura, 74, who was there to pick up some oat bran cereal, several packs of double A batteries and two cans of bug spray, which, like most everything in the store, were selling at half price.
Shimaura, who has lived in the area his whole life and was a friend of Greg and Norman's father, Hiroshi "Francis" Fujioka, said he would shop at the new store. He also plans to keep shopping at the Hale'iwa Supermarket IGA across the street, which has been run for decades by the Sakai family.
Still, things won't be the same without Fujioka's, he said.
Even as Shimaura spoke, most of the shelves were empty, and workers were busy tearing out the ice cream freezer in the center of the store.
"It's looking pretty sad," said cashier Jo Manuel on her last day after 20 years with the company. "For me, the thing I'll miss most is the customers."
Manuel said she wasn't sure what she would do now. But she would accept a job with Malama Market if one were offered, she said.
Malama Market plans to open Oct. 15, but general manager Darcy Takushi said they don't plan to change it much.
"We'll just give it a coat of paint and clean everything up," he said. "We really want to keep it a community grocery store, the Fujioka way."
Reach Will Hoover at 525-8038 or email@example.com.