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Tuesday, July 29, 2003



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GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Suda Store in South Maui is closing today after about 39 years in business. Store manager Roy Suda operated the business with other relatives, including his daughter, Ronnelle.



A Maui landmark is
shutting its doors

The mom-and-pop Suda Store
in Kihei is closing after nearly
39 years in business

KIHEI, Maui >> Mom-and-pop stores operating for decades on Maui are closing -- the latest being Suda Store, a landmark in Kihei.

The popular stop for construction workers and canoe paddlers, once known for its chow fun (noodles), will close its doors today after about 39 years in business.

"We're going to miss this place," said store manager Roy Suda.

Within the last month, two other family-run stores have closed on Maui: Shishido Manju in Wailuku, whose owner said the business was shutting down to resolve a dispute about the ownership of the land under the store; and the Waikapu Stop, whose owners said they wanted to retire and take care of older family members.

Suda said the economy hasn't been good, and most people don't shop at mom-and-pop stores anymore, preferring to make their purchases at supermarkets and big-box stores.

"We can't compete with them," he said. "Our hours are long and it's not worth it."

Suda, 61, who had been trying to negotiate a new lease with landowners the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, said his family members decided to retire.

The closing of the Suda Store represents an end to a store operated by a family with ties to South Maui's past as a sugar plantation camp.

The store is near the beginning of a coastal road leading through Southwest Maui and has served as a landmark frequently used by visitors.

"It's always been the most friendly, like family," said Woogy O'Connor, a carpenter.

Maui residents Midge McCall and Mabel Kinoshita said the store was the only one they knew of that sold live East Coast lobsters on the Valley Isle.

"It really is a shame they're closing down," Kinoshita said.

Suda said he remembers 50 years ago, few people saw Kihei as an attractive place for a residence.

"Nobody wanted to buy land in Kihei," he said. "It was too hot and dusty."

Suda said his parents, who were farmers, used cotton grown in Kihei to make Japanese quilts and seating pillows in the 1940s and 1950s.

The store building, then owned by Alexander & Baldwin Inc., served as a plantation general store, selling a variety of food and goods, including Hawaiian palaka shirts and gasoline at a nearby pump.

Suda recalled that the firm's sugar plantation workers lived in more than 40 nearby houses.

A&B stopped providing housing at the camp after the development of residential subdivisions in Kahului in the 1950s.

In 1959 the company leased the store to the David Moikeha family.

Suda's mother, Hatsuko, worked as a clerk in the store, Suda recalled.

Suda said that after the Moikehas halted their business operation, Hatsuko took over in 1964, selling frozen food, canned goods and convenience items.

Later, Hatsuko Suda converted an adjacent garage into Suda Snack Shop, with picnic benches for customers, and serving what some regarded as the best chow fun on Maui.

"She was such a good cook, she wanted to run a restaurant," Suda said.

At its peak the store and snack shop employed 17 people.

Suda, who became store manager in 1974, operated the business with other relatives, including his sisters Therese Fogarty Suda and Janice Suda Fernandez, who both worked in the snack shop; his wife, Carol Y., employed part time; and his daughter, Ronnelle.

Hatsuko Suda died in 1997.

The gasoline station, which would have required a new fuel storage tank under federal environmental rules, closed in 1998.

The sisters decided to retire and close the snack shop in May.

Suda said although he's seen the ocean every workday from the store, he hasn't had much time to enjoy it during his store manager career, and he looks forward to retirement.

"I'll have some time for leisure to be a fisherman," he said.

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