An unconventional path to the top

A local girl’s success story.


Photo by Kai Kuruhara 2018.

Kai Kuruhara, Features

Many people, especially students, believe that you need a college degree in order to get a good job, but the vice president of the largest grocery store chain in Hawaii doesn’t think so.

Stacy Waiau-Omori grew up in the beachy town we call Kailua on the east side of Oahu, where she loved going to school. 

“I loved school as a child. I wasn’t a 4.0 student, but I never got anything below a 3.0. I enjoyed the structure and I even wanted to become a teacher,” Waiau-Omori exclaimed.

However, that all changed when she moved to the island of Hawaii and started at Hilo High School for her freshman year.

“The school was clique-oriented, so I had a hard time fitting in and making the right friends,” Waiau-Omori said. “I lost confidence in myself and I dreaded going to school. I would even hide under my house to try and to skip.” 

Some point during her junior year, Waiau-Omori begged her parents to let her test for a GED so that she could attend college classes at the University of Hawaii at Hilo during what would’ve been her senior year. Enrolled in college for two years, she eventually dropped out due to having a family and getting promoted at work.

She started working at 16 as a courtesy clerk for a locally-owned supermarket named Sure Save. When they closed two years later, she began working for another locally-owned grocery store called Sack N Save and, over the course of around 26 years, she went from cashier to the Vice President of Foodland.

Photo by Kai Kuruhara 2018.

Sack N Save and Foodland are part of the same company. Sack N Save came first and was originally a warehouse store.

“I worked really hard to get where I am,” Waiau-Omori said. “I contribute my success to my mentors. They taught me how to be a hard worker, do your best, and treat people the way you want to be treated.”

She also mentioned that when she moved out, she had to do it all on her own, without any help. Her parents, William and Janice Waiau are “extremely proud” of their daughter and all her success.

Daughter Rae Kuruhara is also proud.

“My mom’s story is incredible and I wish I could be that dedicated to my job. She really loves what she does and Foodland is her family,” Kuruhara said.

Currently, Waiau-Omori loves her job as she has just been added to be on the Foodland Board of Directors, and she has been working with the company for 28 years now. She said that every day is something different and that she loves how challenging it can be.

“I never in a million years thought that I would make it as far as I am today, and that is the beauty of it. Working hard and going beyond what is expected can take you far in life, sometimes even further than most people with college degrees,” she said. “However, if I had the chance to go back, I would’ve finished school because it would make me so much better at my job now.”