7-Eleven is
Wisteria’s new
sign of times

A gas station and minimart
will replace the historic diner,
maybe by year's end

The oxtail soup and local-style Japanese food that Wisteria restaurant patrons enjoyed for decades is making way for strawberry Slurpees, Big Bite hot dogs and self-serve gasoline.


7-Eleven Hawaii Inc. signed a 20-year lease earlier this month for the landmark Wisteria property at Piikoi and South King streets, where it plans to open a convenience store and gasoline station, according to people familiar with the deal.

7-Eleven will begin demolishing the 28,000-square-foot building next month and will complete construction as early as the end of the year. The convenience store chain is considering subleasing the Piikoi Street portion of the property for retail use.

"It's sad but it was time," said Roy Asato, president of Piikoi & King Ltd., which acquired the Wisteria in 1971 and operated the family restaurant until its closing late last year. "Some of the old-time family restaurants are surviving, but some are riding off into the sunset."

Glenn Nagatori, a 7-Eleven vice president, did not return calls.

The convenience store will be 7-Eleven's second in two blocks and will compete with a Chevron gas station and convenience store across King Street. 7-Eleven, which has about 50 stores statewide, operates a convenience store at the corner of Kinau and Piikoi streets.

Asato said his family closed the 52-year-old eatery because the cost of doing business in a labor-intensive field was eating profits. Asato is now retired and spends much of his time playing golf and traveling.

Local comedian Frank De Lima was a regular who served as Wisteria's advertising pitchman between the 1970s and 1990s, Asato said. During the 1970s, local musician Gabby Pahinui often held impromptu slack-key guitar sessions at the restaurant's bar, Asato recalled.

De Lima said his memories of the restaurant go back decades, to when his parents would take him there for dinners, birthdays and other special events.

"If that wasn't a 7-Eleven, it would be an L&L (Drive-Inn)," De Lima quipped.

John Steelquist, chairman of the Makiki-Tantalus neighborhood board, likened the passing of the Wisteria to the closing of the landmark Columbia Inn on Kapiolani Boulevard, which made way for a car lot.

"It's sad to see it happen," said Steelquist, a business professor at Chaminade University, "but I guess there's nothing you can do about it."

Richard Kawano, a member of the neighborhood board, said he was hoping that another restaurant would replace the Wisteria, which had been one of his family's favorite diners.

But Kawano, who runs local engraving business RK Specialties Ltd., said it is only natural that as public tastes change, their choices of eating places will change.

"It's sad but it's probably inevitable," Kawano said.

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