Saturday, July 19, 2003

The Waikapu Stop, formerly Furukawa Store and operated by family members since 1923, closed yesterday. The store was known for its boiled peanuts and roast pork plate lunches. In the photograph are owners, from left, George Fujita; his wife, Elaine; her brother, James Higa; and his wife, Terry.

Maui gathering spot
bids farewell to customers

WAIKAPU, Maui >> The Waikapu Stop, a favorite convenience store and lunch spot on the Valley Isle, closed its doors yesterday after 80 years.

"They make the best roast pork and boiled peanuts," said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa, a devoted customer. He visited the store earlier in the week to buy four bags of boiled peanuts.

George Fujita, one of the owners, said his grandfather founded Waikapu Stop in 1923 as a general store to serve the local sugar plantation community and travelers between Wailuku and Lahaina.

The store, originally known as Furukawa Store, remained in the family and became a favorite stop for construction workers, truckers, firefighters and others.

But the owners -- Fujita; his wife, Elaine; her brother, James Higa; and his wife, Terry -- decided to close the store because they wanted to retire and care for their grandmothers.

The land and building are being sold to a retail visitor-activity center, Fujita said.

Fujita, 62, said his Japanese grandfather worked as a cook traveling the railroad lines in California before settling in Waikapu and starting the store. His grandfather also butchered meats and sold them in the store.

In the early 1900s, sugar was the main industry on Maui, and Waikapu had hundreds of residents and a plantation stable for horses and mules, Fujita said.

"This was a full-blown community," said Fujita, adding that the store also served as the community gathering place. The family lived in a house behind the store.

Residents came to the store to socialize while an adjacent open-air movie theater (not operated by the family and closed by the early 1950s) also attracted regular visitors.

Aki Taguchi, a lifetime resident of Waikapu who visited the store frequently for conversation, remembers the casual atmosphere.

"They come with pajamas and overcoat" to the movies, he said. "It was so simple."

Fujita said he will miss seeing the regular customers and exchanging stories.

Fujita and his co-owners changed the name from Furukawa Store to Waikapu Stop about 24 years ago and eventually ran the business mainly as a convenience store and lunch diner. They rebuilt the store building about nine years ago.


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