WENDY OSHER / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
Cindy Hanscam, left, Chieko Nagata and Tina Bunch, shown with her daughter, Sophia, run the Nagata Store in Paia, Maui, a business founded by Nagata's father-in-law nearly 78 years ago. The store is closing June 30 amid a changing social and business environment.
End of an era
The Nagata Store on Maui closes next week after 78 years
The novelty of buying fresh poke, rubber slippers and the newspaper all while passing through Paia town is something long-time customers of the Nagata Store will miss when the mom-and-pop retailer closes its doors June 30.
The store has gone through three generations of ownership and nearly eight decades of social change since Japanese immigrants Kiyomi and Hitoshi Nagata set up shop at the Hana Highway location in 1935.
"The original purpose was to support the family back during those plantation days, and having a little business and being able to have your children here was a good thing," said Cindy Hanscam, a third-generation owner who operates the Nagata store with her sister Tina Bunch and their mother, Chieko Nagata.
But 78 years after the store's founding, "The whole social and business environment of Paia has changed so much that we believe the store has served its purpose for what it was meant to be, and now I think it's time to move on," said Hanscam.
Hanscam's mom, who is 66 and ready to retire, said, "It's kind of sad, but in another way, I have enough ... it's time to let the children do their own thing."
Hanscam, who works part time as an OB nurse at Maui Memorial Medical Center, added, "This way we can go out in a nice way, mom can retire, and we can go on with our careers, instead of these businesses around us who close because they're bankrupt."
Bunch, who came directly to the store after graduating with a degree in social work, will weigh her options but has no immediate plans for employment.
Although the store had a solid local clientele, Hanscam believes factors such as rising fuel costs, a troubled vacation rental industry, and airline woes have affected the town as a whole.
Over the years, Paia changed from a bustling plantation town to a gathering place for free spirited-visitors.
While the Nagata store sells everything from panko flakes to peanut butter, the family business was rooted in vegetables that were sold at a separate store on Baldwin Avenue, also in Paia town. Over the years, the Nagata family found its niche in the fresh poke market when the H&P Market and Seafood store across the street closed.
The store's owner, Patrick Hamai, taught the Nagata family how to cut the fish and prepare it with a recipe passed on to him from the Bersamin family, who also ran a business in Paia town.
"It's going to be different for some of our old-timers," said Hanscam.
One loyal customer, upon learning she would no longer be able to purchase her favorite poke in Paia, jokingly exited the establishment with a vow to turn vegetarian.
The stop was a daily routine for many, including Henry "Boy" Kanae, who used to visit during his days of delivering papers for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
"I'd grab a hot dog, poke and pastries, talk story a little bit and be on my way," he said. "Changes are good and bad, but memories will last forever, and I will remember that place forever because it was one of those places where my 'opu (stomach) was very happy."
The Nagata family will continue to serve as landlords for the property and intend to lease it within the next few months.
"We have some very good prospective tenants and we're just going through the process of interviewing and figuring out who will best fit Paia and fit our needs as well," said Hanscam.