Kauai’s homegrown chain of supermarkets, Big Save Value Centers, is being sold to the owner of Times Supermarkets, severing control for a kamaaina family that started the predecessors to the six-store chain 85 years ago.
Behind the scenes
A purchase price was not disclosed. The sale is pending, but is expected to be completed in the summer.
The deal extends a string of acquisitions for an affiliate of Stockton, Calif.-based PAQ Inc., which bought the kamaaina family-owned Times chain in 2002 and another local chain, Star Markets, in 2009. The growing Hawaii supermarket conglomerate led by John Quinn also owns Shima’s Market in Waimanalo and two Fujioka’s Fine Wine stores.
With Big Save, the Times collection of full-service grocery stores would increase to 22, giving it more stores in the islands than Safeway, which has 19. The largest grocery chain in the state is locally owned Foodland Super Markets, which has 32 stores, including Sack N Save and Foodland Farms.
Big Save is one of Kauai’s largest and oldest retailers. The business dates back to 1926 when brothers Saburo and Furutaro Kawakami and their spouses established stores in Waimea and Hanapepe. The enterprise grew, and in 1958 incorporated as Big Save Inc. after being consolidated with a business owned by Minoru Furugen.
Big Save shareholders tied to the Kawakami and Furugen families disagreed about whether to continue operating what they described as a successful chain. Shareholders with no family members involved running Big Save wanted to divest the business, which led to a reluctant decision by Kawakami family members holding majority ownership.
"This is a very difficult and emotional day for our family," Charles Kawakami, Big Save president and CEO, said in a statement. "For the Kawakami family, Big Save has been our heritage. We have gladly and faithfully served the Kauai that we all love since 1926, and it has been a privilege to have had such an important role in this community."
Quinn said the ownership transition would be smooth for customers. "We are truly honored to be acquiring the Big Save chain, especially considering its sterling record of outstanding service and quality goods for the people of Kauai," he said in a statement. "Times Supermarket is deeply rooted in Hawaii’s way of life and we look forward to building on Big Save’s 85-year legacy by offering superior customer service, value pricing and quality local products."
Times will keep five of six Big Save stores open and operating under the Big Save name. The Lihue store will be closed because a Times store is nearby.
Times said most of Big Save’s 234 employees are expected to move into similar positions after the sale is complete. All employees must apply for jobs after Times takes over. About 40 employees work at the Lihue store.
Charles Kawakami said he is satisfied that Times will take care of Big Save employees and customers, and encouraged Kauai residents to support the new owner as his family steps aside.
"To our dedicated employees and loyal customers, we appreciate all of your aloha and extend to all of you a heartfelt mahalo for all that you have meant to Big Save and the Kawakami family," he said.
Other businesses owned by the Kawakami and Furugen families are not being sold, including Kauai Kookie Kompany, Menehune FoodMart convenience stores, service stations and Subway stores.