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Monday, July 19, 1999




By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Janis Y. Chun tells the story of neighborhood merchants
in "The History of the Kaneohe Business Group." She is
still seeking facts, anecdotes and photographs to add to the booklet.



Small-biz group
invests in Kaneohe

The Kaneohe Business Group
works to keep the community unique

By Mary Adamski
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

Kaneohe's small businesses have banded together for years to support one another and to foster the small-town, main-street atmosphere in the Windward community.

Whether it's donating prizes and supplies for the Castle High School Project Graduation or grabbing a paint brush for Kaneohe Graffiti Busters, members of the Kaneohe Business Group take a personal proprietary interest in the place where they work.

The group marked its 30th anniversary this year with publication of its history and a roster of its presidents.

"What we're best known for is sponsoring the biggest and best Christmas parade on Oahu," said Janis Y. Chun, who compiled the booklet and is distributing it from her real estate company at 46-018 Kamehameha Highway.

The parade through downtown Kaneohe on the first Saturday of December draws crowds from even the other side of the island. Chun said so many organizations wanted to participate that the line of marchers had to be curtailed so the traffic jam would end and business could resume.

"When it first started, Kamehameha Highway was two lanes. Business people used to close the shop and sit on the curb to watch the parade," Chun said. Now the parade is routed on half of the four-lane highway and, traffic jam or not, businesses don't close.

The phenomenon of small businesses closing for good in the community hard hit by Hawaii's economic slump is reflected in the membership of the Kaneohe Business Group. It had 130 businesses as members at its peak. Now the membership is 85.

Chun said when merchants organized at the end of the 1960s, separating themselves from existing Kaneohe community organizations, it was before Windward Shopping Center or Windward Mall existed. They sought ways to lure shoppers to Kaneohe. Pooling resources so they could buy supplies in bulk was one of the practical efforts of the alliance.

"Now it's more about political clout," she said. Members of the group backed construction of H-3 freeway and Kahekili Highway, development of an industrial district, and construction of a satellite city hall, state courthouse and U.S. post office. Although the nonprofit organization cannot be a lobbyist, it does try to keep members informed about business issues before the Legislature and new laws, she said.

Another ongoing project of the group is funding an annual scholarship for a business student at Windward Community College.

Each president sets up a project for the year. When Chun took her turn at the reins in 1994-95, it was the first year of Project Graduation, an initiative to provide an alcohol-free party for graduating high school seniors. The business folks continue to support it with donations as they did that year.

Another year, they joined an effort to tag papio in Kaneohe Bay to track their life span, growth and movement.

New president Herb Lee Jr., owner of Lee Communications Inc., told the business group last week that he wants to work to "create some new partnerships, better links with the schools, the college, the military. I want to try to pull everybody together so we can work collectively.

"We have something special and unique ... that sets Kaneohe aside from the town side," Lee said. "We need to bring that out in how we promote our business, how we conduct business and how we treat people. We will continue to foster this kind of environment on the Windward side."

Lee said some initiatives that have been discussed are an effort to get new families at Kaneohe Marine Base Hawaii acclimated and involved in community activities. Another involves business outreach to students such as participation in career fairs or involvement in business-related classes such as the Castle High School culinary arts classes.

Chun is the third generation of Kaneohe business people. Her father, Evans H.M. Yim, was the first president of the Kaneohe Business Group. His parents operated Lin's Supermarket, the biggest market in Kaneohe in post-World War II days.

"Old-timers still remember my grandmother," Chun said. "She owned a restaurant in front of their house. It was on Kamehameha Highway next to where Kaneohe Medical Building is now. She had bound feet, and she made a famous pastry that people still remember."

There are gaps in the history that Chun has compiled, so she is still seeking facts, anecdotes and photographs, easy enough to add to the ringed-binder format. She may be reached at her office, 235-4390.



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