KAHULUI >> Janie Karimoto says she's happy a new Japanese specialty store will be operating in space vacated by the international chain store Shirokiya on Maui.
Similar store replaces
By Gary T. Kubota
"I appreciate that we will continue to obtain some of the Japanese and oriental things," said Karimoto.
For Karimoto and many Japanese, Shirokiya, which closed in May on the Valley Isle, served as a link to their culture.
While several stores sell Japanese goods as part of their inventory, Shirokiya workers focused on marketing items from Japan.
"They had different kinds of things," Maui resident Yukie Ueoka said. "They held their own for a long time."
The new store, Tamakawaya, hopes to promote a similar approach and will be featuring many of the same goods and merchandise as Shirokiya.
The store at Kaahumanu Center plans to hold a soft opening Friday, followed by a grand opening on June 25.
Store owner Allen Tamakawa will be operating a leaner and more independent business.
Tamakawa, who worked as the Shirokiya manager on Maui for 10 years, plans to employ 15 to 20 people, compared to the 40 who worked at Shirokiya.
Tamakawa said the store won't be selling electronics merchandise such as televisions and stereos because the profit margin is too small, especially with increasing competition from Costco and Kmart.
He is negotiating with concessionaires who are interested in operating in the store.
While a major supplier will be the Shirokiya store at Ala Moana Center, he'll also be introducing baked goods from Saint-Germain Bakery on Oahu.
Tamakawa said besides Japanese snacks and food products, the store will continue to sell kimonos, yukatas, Japanese dolls for special occasions, kitchen utensils, and toys like Sanrio's "Hello Kitty."
He anticipates healthy increases in catering.
"It just keeps growing and growing," he said.
Sayoko Kobata, who moved from Japan to Maui 18 years ago, said she has relied on Shirokiya as the source for Japan-style bread and ready-made Japanese food -- items that she looks forward to purchasing in the new store.
Karimoto, born on the Big Island, said she enjoys finding the different ways the Japanese in Japan prepare their food, including some sauces and dressings not available elsewhere on Maui.
"It's a learning experience for us," she said.