Keauhou Store

There are a lot of establishments that place a few antique props around on on a shelf to propagate the idea that the place has some ties to antiquity. They do not have a legitimate tie.

Keauhou Store

Businesses that do have ties to antiquity are those that promote and practice preservation. In the early 1980s arose a nostalgia for historical buildings that helped preserve styles of older architecture and was fueled by tourism, gentrification and economic boom. Old factories were remade for boutiques, offices and brick walled restaurants with lofts. Entrepreneurs  transformed old garages and empty houses into galleries and studios, shops and cafes. The benefits of this preservation have been a greater appreciation for architecture plus practicing the tenants of the environmental movement; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

THE REAL DEAL of an establishment with a  vital connection to the past is often a family owned business in a rural or remote community.

For the past 92 years The Keauhou Store has been serving the upland agricultural community of Holualoa, HI. Originally called the Y. Sasaki Shoten, the store opened in 1919. Holualoa at the time was a busy sugar cane growing area. That industry collapsed in 1926 but coffee and macadamia farms sustained the dwindling population in the years that followed. By 1958 only about a thousand people remained in the area. The Keauhou Store continued to serve the needs of the people for general merchandise. When vehicle traffic abandoned the old Mamalahoa road for the new Kuakini Highway in 1967 the store’s business was severely affected but remained open for local farmers and neighbors.

Yoshisuke Sasaki (b.1885) immigrated to Hawaii at the age of 15. Within several years he had learned and perfected construction and woodworking skills. At age 34 the diminutive Yoshisuke (5′ 2″) started his own mercantile business from the ground up. The building, windows, doors, shelves, cabinets, furniture and living space were all hand made and built by Yoshisuke. The family also gardened, farmed and processed coffee and macadamia nuts. The large front porch was a popular  place for the community to gather and talk story. Over the years the building was enlarged and in 1947 an upper mezzanine was added plus a new facade. Rikio (b.1924) the middle son began running  the business in the 1950s.

The Keauhou Store was completely stocked with all manner of general merchandise. It was also the busiest Standard Oil Service Station in Kona. One could purchase groceries, hardware, sporting goods, sewing supplies, appliances, radios, jewelry, stationary, records, musical instruments and photography supplies. Rikio began selling the first Schwinn and Columbia bicycles in Kona. There was candies for the youngsters, imported Japanese records for the young crowd and tobacco or teas for the seniors. As always there was conversation, news and visiting in the shade of the porch.

The Keauhou Store has been a vital resource for the Holualoa community and has been steadfast through good times and bad. The crash of the sugar market in 1926, the Great Depression of the 30s, WW II in the 40s, a steadily declining population, new alternative roadways in the 1950s and 60s and EPA regulations in 1995 that resulted in the removal of gas pumps and tanks did not deter the father or son. Yoshisuke a well respected member of the community lived to the age of 88. Rikio never married or had children and continued to run the store until 2009, which is when he passed away. Those in line for family inheritance were either too elderly or unable to take on operations and the business sold in 2010. Fortunately a local couple saw an opportunity to do good and the legacy lives on.

Kurt and Thea Brown the new owners repaired, restored and re-opened in January 2011. They did an exemplary job of preserving the building, furniture, artifacts and essence of the store. Preservation of this kind is of the highest sort as it also speaks to the culture and traditions of the area. People can still continue to shop local at the Keauhou Store which has been serving the community for 92 years. There is still a bench on the front porch where people sit and talk story.

In contrast I wonder about corporate chain stores, franchise outfits and deep discount retailers. What role do they really play in our neighborhoods? Do they have any loyalty to the community? Will they close up shop and shutter the windows at the first dip in the bottom line, moving to some other town? If big business has already forced out traditional local enterprise what then? Think and Shop Local.

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About earthstonestation

promoting environmental education, protecting all species and preserving the wild places with art, music and storytelling.
Gallery | This entry was posted in environment, history, local economy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Keauhou Store

  1. Simply Tim says:

    “Think and Shop Local”.

    I have begun my own similar campaign here in North Carolina. “Support Area Merchants: Buy Local!” Twenty miles away, “Support Area Merchants: Buy Local!” bumper stickers adorn automobiles crammed into the Wal-Mart parking lot.

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