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Center for Oral History > Projects > Occupations


Stores and Storekeepers of Pa‘ia and Pu‘unene, Maui

Boys sit on benches in front of small store.

Arakawa Store, Kaheka, Maui, ca. 1935. Arakawa Store carried a variety of fast-selling goods, including soda pop, bread, ice cream, and school supplies. (Photo courtesy Richard Arakawa.)

Stores played an important role in Hawai‘i’s plantation communities. Prior to 1945, they supplied residents with their basic needs, served as social gathering places, catered to various ethnic preferences in food, clothing, and medicine, and provided special services such as extended credit and free delivery to the camps (i.e., housing areas), which eased the inconveniences of once-a-month paydays and lack of transportation.

“They tell me go take order house to house. I go. Because not too easy, too. You write the bills, and then you go collect the groceries. Mark ’em on the box — who the owner and what house to deliver.” —Jose Cabanayan

This project identifies the different stores which supplied goods and services to the residents of Pa‘ia and Pu‘unene, Maui, and examines, through oral history, their methods of operation between 1910 and 1980. After 1945, self-service, cash-and-carry stores emerged on Maui, changing the appearance of stores and their methods of operation.

“. . . things were too tough. You know, staying in business, competing with those cash-and-carry and all that, because the overhead cost is too high — taking orders, deliver, bill them, wait another month or two for the money to come in.” —Leodegario Polo

The improvement of transportation such as the railroad and automobile, arrival of new immigrants on the plantations, natural disasters, World Wars I and II, unionization and strikes, closing of plantation camps and subsequent migration of residents to subdivisions are chronicled by managers and employees of plantation-run stores, private store owners, deliverymen, and peddlers.

“Anyway, we struggled so much over money, that there were times when I wondered if I should not have started a business at all. . . . There were times when I’d be so tired as I counted the money, I’d fall asleep with my cheek on the coins.” —Yoshiko Araki

With the subsequent decline of the sugar plantation era came the end of the once-important socio-economic role of plantation community stores.

“Of course, right now, this place is phasing out. This is about the end of the trail, here, now. So, naturally, it’s quiet and not many people. It’s exceptionally quiet. But at one time, there were lots of people here. Lots of people. Adults and children. People moving back and forth here. Lots of activities. . . . We had a bench here, and a bench here, and a bench all around.” —Larry Kobayashi


Link to audioFilipino storekeeper Leodegario Polo talks about the difficulty of owning a store (.au sound file, 380K).




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