A New Place For Poke And Spirits In Aiea

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - April 14, 2010
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Chad Kroeger of Tamura’s in Aiea

Staff at Tamura’s Fine Wines and Spirits are used to effusive comments and compliments from their customers, but the opening of the latest store in Aiea (next to KFC) has inspired a whole new level of praise.

“It’s been pretty amazing,” says Tamura’s Aiea manager, Chad Kroeger. “People are so thrilled when they come in to the store. And every weekend we get so many new people who discover us for the first time. That’s the best part so far - everyone is thanking us that they don’t have to drive as far anymore to get great wine.”

Rave reviews are nothing new to owner Glenn Tamura, who’s been keeping Honolulu oenophiles happy for a decade. “It’s been a good couple of months,” he says, modestly. “People seem to like what we’re doing out here.”

Having learned the secrets of super-successful retailing from his father Herbert, Glenn has an enviable ability to pick the perfect spot for his stores.

“I learned so much in the early days from my dad,” he says. “Today I can walk into any store in any neighborhood and pretty much tell you what’s selling well just by looking at the shelves and the displays. Obviously that - and the neighborhood demographic - is what we take into account when we’re building our stores. “

That’s why you’ll find more poke than ever at the bright, spacious Aiea store, along with a 10-door beer refrigeration system, gourmet foods like European cheese and chocolates, and some very high-end single malts.

” There are a lot of military guys out here ,” says Glenn. “They travel the world, they taste interesting and good stuff, and they know what they want. We’re able to get them a lot of the higher-end spirits or imported beers that they can’t find anywhere else.”

Whisky sales have been brisk in Aiea, and it’s easy to see why, as it’s not just pricing that sets Tamura’s apart but the range of whisky—from single malts to blends - that they offer. Heard about the designer malt “Bruichladdich Rocks” from master distiller Jim McEwan? Tamura’s has it, along with “world’s best whisky,” the 21-year-old Highland Park, and dozens of rare and limited bottlings from some of Scotland’s greatest distilleries.

High-end wines are doing well too.

“We’ve already expanded that section of the store,” says Kroeger, who finds customer reaction to Tamura’s prices a source of job satisfaction. “I think of it as us doing our part for the community,” he says, laughing. “People are incredibly happy when they see our prices and the quality of our wines, spirits and food.”

And with a poke counter offering more than 40 different selections, and imported and local beers, it’s only a matter of time before Tamura’s becomes tailgate central. For now rice bowls and poke bowls priced under $5 are selling well, and current beer and poke sales are merely an indicator of the madness that’s sure to come to the Tamura’s parking lot in September.

And while the success of three major stores might be enough for some, for Tamura the fun is really just beginning, although which lucky neighborhood will be next remains top secret, for now.

“You know me,” Glenn says, “I’m always looking - and I always have a good idea where I want to be next.”

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