Takahashi Market a 108-year-old institution

The San Mateo, Calif.-based family owned and operated Takahashi Market has been serving the San Francisco Bay Area for four generations. The Nichi Bei Weekly caught up with owner Gene Takahashi via e-mail to learn about the market’s legacy and some of its highly demanded staple items.

Nichi Bei Weekly: Tell me about the history of the market — when did it first open?
Gene Takahashi: Store started in 1906 by my grandfather, Tokutaro Takahashi (same year as Uoki and Benkyodo in San Francisco).

NBW: How has the third-generation run market evolved, and what are some traditions it has maintained over the years?
GT: Started originally as a general merchandise and food store for the Japanese immigrants. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, my father, Kenge Takahashi, expanded the product line to include Asian foods in general to accommodate the growing diversity in the San Mateo area.

NBW: Any plans for the next generation to continue the market?
GT: Yes, actually. My son, Bobby Takahashi, has decided to come into the business, and he runs the busy kitchen area.

NBW: What are some of the Hawai‘i staples you fly in from the islands, and how often do you receive these shipments? What are some of your longtime customers’ favorites, fresh tofu, manju, etc.?
GT: We still fly in fresh Taro and Hanalei brands of poi, lau lau, kalua pig, several Hawaiian brands of Portuguese Sausage, Hawaiian kim chee, and chi chi mochi. These items are fresh, not frozen, and come in every Thursday. These have been customer favorites for over 50 years.

NBW: How did the Hawai‘i connection begin? Are you/your family from Hawai‘i, or did the demand for Hawaiian products just suddenly take off?
GT: In the ‘50s and ‘60s, my parents, Kenge and Sachiko, responded to the requests from customers from Hawai‘i to bring in more “local food,” Hawaiian items like poi, lau lau, and King’s Hawaiian Sweetbread that were hard to find on the mainland. So the Hawaiian connection started about over 50 years ago, and the demand has slowly increased over the years. My siblings and I all grew up working at the market and developed a taste for Hawaiian food and Hawaiian culture since we were exposed at a young age. Along with the items from Hawai‘i, we also make our own ahi poke and tako poke every day.

NBW: What makes Takahashi Market a community standout over large chain grocery stores like Nijiya?
GT: We are still a family-owned and operated business after all these years, and we stress customer service. It’s pretty special to us that we have enjoyed the loyal patronage of generations of Peninsula families over the years.

Takahashi Market is located at 221 S. Claremont St., San Mateo, Calif. Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, contact (650) 343-0394 or www.takahashimarket.com.

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