Re­tailer helped bring Nie­man Mar­cus to isles

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - IN MEMORY - By Ti­mothy Hur­ley thur­ley@starad­ver­tiser.com

Alan Tomonari, the Oahuborn re­tailer who helped bring Nie­man Mar­cus to Hawaii in 1998 and also served the is­land’s non­profit com­mu­nity, has died at the age of 71 fol­low­ing a bat­tle with can­cer.

“He loved re­tail,” said Joyce Tomonari of her hus­band, who died March 5.

“He loved the store. He loved it un­til the day he re­tired. It was his life.”

Born and raised in Honolulu, he grad­u­ated from Roo­sevelt High School in 1964 and went on to earn bach­e­lor’s and mas­ter’s de­grees in busi­ness at the Univer­sity of Hawaii.

Tomonari worked his way through school as a de­liv­ery­man for Lib­erty House. Af­ter grad­u­a­tion he moved to Cal­i­for­nia and be­came a buyer for Macy’s and Bul­lock’s depart­ment stores, then moved to New Jersey, where he worked for the Bam­berger’s depart­ment store chain be­fore it was bought out by Macy’s in 1986.

He would be­come vice pres­i­dent of men’s mer­chan­dis­ing for Macy’s East Divi­sion in New York be­fore be­ing suc­cess­fully re­cruited by Neiman Mar­cus in 1991. The plan was for him to open the store in Honolulu, but he worked first at the Bev­erly Hills, Calif., store and then in Palo Alto, Calif., be­fore com­ing home.

Sharon Twigg-Smith re­mem­bered the new gen­eral man­ager of Neiman Mar­cus Honolulu in Ala Moana Cen­ter as a “su­per host” — a friendly, warm, gra­cious, el­e­gant and dap­per man in black suit and tie who treated his cus­tomers like they were roy­alty.

“He was such an amaz­ing guy on so many lev­els,” she said.

For ex­am­ple, there was the time Twigg-Smith parked out­side Neiman Mar­cus but had to go to an­other store in the mall. Lug­ging a bunch of heavy pur­chases back through Neiman Mar­cus, Tomonari was there to help her carry her bags.

“He was so friendly to ev­ery­one,” she said. “There’s never been any­one like him.”

Twigg-Smith would go on to serve along­side Tomonari on the board of trustees of The Con­tem­po­rary Mu­seum. They re­mained on the joint board when the mu­seum merged with the Honolulu Academy of Arts in

2011.

Honolulu Mu­seum of Art Deputy Di­rec­tor Al­li­son Wong, who was pre­vi­ously di­rec­tor of The Con­tem­po­rary Mu­seum, said Tomonari gra­ciously of­fered his ad­vice on is­sues of style and re­tail­ing when­ever she asked.

“For more than a decade Neiman Mar­cus hosted TCM’s an­nual fundraiser, Con­tempo, be­cause Al un­der­stood the im­por­tance of the arts in our com­mu­nity. He would make sure that all of his sales staff would be trained in an­swer­ing ques­tions about the art on view,” Wong told the Honolulu Mu­seum of Art blog.

Tomonari, an avid golfer and art col­lec­tor who re­tired from Neiman Mar­cus in

2015, served on nu­mer­ous non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions over the years. They in­clude the Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Hos­pi­tal of the Pa­cific, Re­tail Mer­chants of Hawaii, Air Force Civil­ian Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil, Aloha United Way, Amer­i­can Red Cross, Ja­panese Cul­tural Cen­ter of Hawaii and YMCA.

“He was a re­ally vi­tal part of the (Honolulu Mu­seum of Art) board,” Twigg-Smith said. “He’ll be missed by a lot of peo­ple.”

GE­ORGE F. LEE / 1998

Alan Tomonari, for­mer vice pres­i­dent and gen­eral man­ager of Neiman Mar­cus Hawaii, died March 5 at 71.

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