The other day I had to fly to Maui for a story I was working on.
Since I had some time to kill between interviews, I, like usual, went searching for somewhere to eat.
A woman I had met earlier that morning told me to check out Takamiya Market in the Happy Valley area of Wailuku.
Actually, this is really how the conversation went down:
HER: “You hungry? Like eat wit us?”
ME: “No, I no can. I gotta go to Wailuku fast kine.”
HER: “Oh, then you gotta go Takamiya Market.
HER: “What?! You nevah been to Takamiya Market?”
ME: “No. Where is that?”
HER: “You going Wailuku, right? It’s right dea, on da way. No can miss ’em.”
So there I was, driving in my rental car with those basic-but-accurate instructions. The small, unassuming market was right where the woman had told me — “right dea” — on the side of N. Market Street on the way to Wailuku Town.
From what I hear, the market opened right after World War II by Jisho Takamiya, an immigrant laborer from Okinawa who worked for the Wailuku Sugar Co. His sons, Jin and Kenneth, along with son-in-law Sekichi Sakihara, took over the business and turned it into a grocery store. Later, Jisho’s youngest son, James, added grab-and-go foods, for which the market has become known.
I love these small mom-and-pop shops. It reminds me of Alicia’s Market in Kalihi — one of my go-to places for poke, roast pork and boiled peanuts — and Pukalani Superette in Upcountry Maui — love me the chili chicken and tako poke — where the offerings are simple, convenient and tasty.
These are the best places to find great locally made snacks and treats to eat on the go — or take home as gifts. Because you likely can’t find these items anywhere else.
When I travel, I like to hit up places like Takamiya to get a real feel for what life is like in these small towns. Even though I come from a small town in Hawaii myself — I grew up in Kalihi Valley — every island, every part of of every island, has something different to offer.
I wonder what will happen to these small stores, if there’s still enough patrons living in these areas to keep them afloat. The big-box retailers like Costco and Walmart offer a substantially larger variety of goods at far cheaper prices. And with everything more expensive these days — electricity, cable, gasoline — and paychecks not getting any bigger, it’s no wonder folks are flocking to stores that offer discounts on the things they need.
It’s sad and there’s not much we can do about it — except patronize these small mom-and-pop shops whenever you can.
It might cost a little more, but to lose them will cost way more.
Takamiya Market, 359 N. Market St. Wailuku, Maui. Phone: (808) 244-3404.