Katy Okuyama, founder and President of Brokerage of Quality Foods, has pioneered the Natural and Organic retail grocery space beginning in the 1970s at her family’s local grocery store. With a mission to foster a healthier quality of life on the islands, she went on to start Hawaii’s first Natural and Specialty Foods Brokerage in 1986. Today, BQF continues to fulfill its mission while constantly evolving to meet the demands of the modern marketplace.
Katy comes from three generations of entrepreneurs, dating back to her grandfather, Tomohide Okuyama. In 1935, Tomohide purchased a small grocery store in Hilo, Hawaii for $1,500. Tomohide passed on his passion and knowledge to Katy’s father, Tom Okuyama. Katy in turn grew up in the family business. From the time she was old enough to be of help, she can remember passing out cake, ice cream and soda to customers for every store anniversary celebration. From those earliest memories, her responsibilities grew until she became experienced in every department of the store.
Pre-1953 Ad from Okuyama Meat Market
Third Generation Grocer
Katy’s commitment and passion for natural foods started after she witnessed her father undergo open-heart surgery in the early 1970s. The high-risk surgery highlighted the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle. As a provider of food to her local community, Katy understood the responsibility she had to give access to healthier options in order to promote a higher quality of life.
Note Reflecting Store Bought for $1,500 in 1935
In the late 1970s, Katy convinced her family to squeeze a bulk foods section of grains, nuts, dried fruit and flours into their Kealakekua Kona store. Its success allowed Katy to grow her small bulk foods section into what became entire natural foods sections, stretching across grocery, chill and frozen at each of her family’s stores. Since natural food manufacturer promotions were a rare offering at the time, Katy would contact the manufacturers directly in order to negotiate buys and promotions. After establishing relationships with many different natural and specialty manufacturers, Katy realized that she could better serve her mission and community by providing this service across the Hawaiian Islands and thus BQF was founded. Many of Katy’s earliest partnerships still remain a part of her extensive business network today.
Katy's Father (left) and Grandfather (right) at the Okuyama Meat Market
As a third-generation grocer, Katy has formed many valuable long-time broker, principal, distributor and retailer relationships in the Hawaii marketplace. Along with the lessons and values of perseverance, focus and execution learned from her family and her own beliefs in natural and organic foods, Katy is an invaluable resource to help your business succeed in the Hawaii marketplace.
BQF continues to innovate by implementing modern business practices such as utilizing CRM programs, data analytics, social media and digital solutions to help bring your business to the next level.