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Wally’s Watch Service winding down: Kainaliu shop set to close after 71 years

  • A photo of Wally Nakamoto with his father and grandfather outside the original shop - located just across the street from the current location - hangs above the door of Wally’s Watch Service. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

  • Wally Nakamoto is all smiles in front of his store. Wally’s Watch Service will end a 71-year run in Kainaliu this year. (Tom Linder/West Hawaii Today)

After more than four decades in the watchmaking business, Wally Nakamoto wasn’t sure how to begin the process of retiring.

Ever since Nakamoto’s parents Hitoshi and Teruyo opened Wally’s Watch Service in 1950, the shop has been a mainstay in Kainaliu. Now, 71 years later, Nakamoto is ready to call it a career, with the store set to close by the end of this year.

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“When I thought about retiring, I didn’t even know where to start,” Nakamoto said. “Closing, it’s emotional for me because I enjoy coming to work and interacting with the customers. We have time to talk story a little bit, find out about each other’s lives and events. It’s become a social place as well as a business… A lot of the customers, repeat customers, become friends.”

In addition to the everyday interactions with his customers, much of the emotion comes from the memories working with his father. In fact, Nakamoto views Wally’s Watch Service more as an heirloom passed down from his father, than just a business. During the early preparations for closing, he recalled cleaning out his father’s workbench was a tough obstacle to overcome.

“It was a lot of emotion that came out. I’m kind of over that hump right now.”

After serving in the Navy, Nakamoto returned to Kona and joined his father in the watchmaking business in the late 70s. He considers the opportunity to work alongside his parents among the most meaningful aspects of his career.

“That’s memorable to me, that I could work with my dad,” Nakamoto said. “There were things he taught me that, when you go through watchmaking school, they don’t teach you. The tricks of the trade, so to speak.”

Learning all those tricks of the trade helped to build a loyal customer base, with customers returning even after moving away from Kona. Customers as far away as Florida have sent watches to Wally’s Watch Service for repair.

“I’m very honored that I’ve gained the trust of the customers,” Nakamoto said. “It’s a big deal to me. I appreciate that we’re able to gain not only a customer relationship, but a relationship. I appreciate their trust.”

As watch repairs and jewelry sales have started to slow down, the 72-year-old Nakamoto decided the time was right to retire. Already, the process of clearing out the store has begun. While he’s not certain what’s in store for the next chapter, Nakamoto is anticipating taking a nice, long vacation for the first time in decades.

“All the years that I’ve worked, I never really took a vacation; I took days off, but not two weeks off at a time,” he said. “When I retire, that’s going to be my first real vacation.”

While he’s looking forward to relaxing in retirement, Nakamoto wanted to make sure the community knew just how much he appreciated them over the years.

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“I’m just grateful for the support that the community has given my parents and myself all these years we’ve been in business here in Kainaliu. A big mahalo to my customers; it means a lot.”

Email Tom Linder at tlinder@westhawaiitoday.com.

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