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StarBulletin.com

Personal touch has lured generations of anglers


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Maurice Kaya says that his grandfather established Kaya Fishing Supply Inc. in 1911, but he wonders if the third-generation Chinatown business might be even older.

“;We don't know (for sure),”; Kaya admitted. “;No more record.”;

Uncertain about exactly when Kaichi Kaya, an immigrant from Japan, established the fishing supply store, Maurice uses Nov. 12, 1911—his late father Jack Kaya's birthday—as the shop's unofficial anniversary date.

“;My father was born in the store,”; Kaya explained.

The tiny shop at the corner of Kekaulike Street and Nimitz Highway has supplied generations with rods, reels, hooks, weights, floaters and lures.

Kaya, 68, and his hanai son Raine Nitta, 47, dispense advice, talk story and listen to their customers' latest fishing tales. None of Kaya's three sons wants to take over the store, so he will eventually hand over the business to Nitta, who has worked for him since graduating from high school.

Kaya will open up early or stay open late for regulars who want to stop by before or after work to pick supplies, including weights packaged in newspaper pouches that Nitta stitches on an old-fashioned Singer sewing machine.

How has the business survived for nearly a century?

“;Gotta eat rocks,”; Kaya said with a laugh. “;No can eat (unsold supplies), but we don't have to worry about spoilage and throwing (perishables) away.”;

Kaya acknowledges that big-box retailers and sporting goods stores can offer better prices on the latest model casting rods, but he says that he and Nitta provide more personalized service and, some days, live bait.

The big-box stores “;no going show (people) how for tie one hook or how to set up”; their line, he said.