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Monday, June 28, 1999



NEIGHBORHOODS


By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Mary Long, who works for a nearby florist, picks some papayas
at Kaimuki Produce Market for the fruit baskets she's making.
She says workers at the store help her pick the fruit she needs.



Monday’s the day at
Kaimuki Produce

That's when the family fruit and
vegetable store puts out its best papayas
for its loyal customers

By Alisa LaVelle
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

THE Kaimuki Produce Market sells the best papayas on Oahu. Its customers say so without hesitation.

The customers, mostly retirees, say Monday is the day. They line up before the store opens.

When the store opened at 8 a.m. last Monday, 12 of them went directly to the boxes stacked on the floor near the worn stands.

Within 30 minutes, 200 papayas were sold at $1.12 a pound. By the end of the day, more than 500 pounds were gone.

"I don't know why Monday, but it's always been that way," said Renee Shiroma, manager of the store on Waialae Avenue, sandwiched between Italian and Korean restaurants, a collector's shop and a karaoke place.

Shiroma picks up papayas on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Thursdays, she gets them delivered to the store.

The papayas come from Kauai, Kahuku and Laie farmers.

The Sunrise Red papayas from Kauai have light pink meat. The Kahuku ones are orange. Both are sweet, firm, but seem to melt in the mouth.

The Kahuku farmers Shiroma deals with hire a specialist to handle the papaya seeds.

The special care makes a difference in sweetness.

"I think it's the way the farmers take care of their trees," Shiroma said.

A customer thought it was the type of soil that makes the difference.

Whatever it is, Kaimuki Produce Market offers more than the best papayas.

A 20-year customer, Helen E. Ejercito, 64, comes every Monday. She dislikes supermarkets because she feels unwelcomed.

"I like no frills, family kind," Ejercito said. "I like down-to-earth and honest."

Mary Long, 21, who works for Alaka'i Floral Creations, a nearby flower shop, is buying fruits to make fruit baskets.

"They help me pick fruits because I'm not always sure which ones," said Long, who buys all the pineapples, apples, bananas and papayas chosen by Shiroma.

THE little market is owned by Reynold Shiroma, Renee's dad. He bought the store from two Chinese sisters, who bought it from two Japanese brothers, Reynold said.

"They liked the way I served them and would only sell the store to me," he said.

Reynold Shiroma has been growing bananas in Kaneohe for about 30 years.

"We sell the best papayas and bananas," said Ida Nealon, while emptying a papaya box for a customer.

Nealon, a longtime friend of the family, comes every Monday to help out. Renee Shiroma pays her with bananas.

"Me and Reynold worked together at the university as janitors," said Nealon, who retired seven years ago.

ONE of Renee Shiroma's best friends, Lisa Hiramoto, was out delivering grocery orders.

"She's the only one my father trusts to drive his van," Renee Shiroma said.

They deliver only on Mondays.

"Some of our customers are blind and others don't get out much," she said.

Renee Shiroma's younger brother, Brian, offers to take an elderly woman's plastic bags for her.

Earlier, Brian unloaded banana boxes and took his nephew to a summer activity program.

Nickolas, Renee Shiroma's 6-year-old son, bagged ears of corn before going to Summer Fun. Behind the register, his first-grade artwork is taped to the wall for all to see.

They all know the names of their regular customers. Everyone else gets a friendly hello.

"Most of them come in three times a week," Renee Shiroma said.

Customers said they've been coming so long that they can't remember when they started.

"The best part about owning this market is the people," Shiroma said.

When Ejercito gets ready to leave, she gives Shiroma three hibiscus flowers.

"This is a wonderful place," Ejercito said.



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