Wednesday | June 28, 2017
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Keauhou Store was teeming place at one time

Keauhou Store

Keauhou Store, formerly Sasaki Store, was started in 1919 by Yoshisuke Sasaki. Sasaki was a skilled carpenter from Japan who came to Kona in search of economic opportunity. He earned his first money making coffins out of redwood and then built redwood water tanks for prominent immigrant families.

Recognized as a capable designer, Sasaki built the archway for the Tong Wo Tong Cemetery and helped with the construction of the Daifukuji Soto Mission. After his carpenter’s shop in nearby Honalo burned down, he moved to the store site with his wife, Kuma, and their family. Besides building and opening his store, he farmed several acres of coffee and macadamia nuts and processed them. He invented a number of milling machines.

The store was also a Standard Oil service station. It pumped more gas than any other station in Kona. A gathering place for the community, the store’s large front lanai was a location to visit and talk story.

Yoshisuke’s son, Rikyo, began operating the store in the 1950s and selling the first Schwinn and Columbia bicycles in Kona. This establishment was truly the department store of the area, stocking musical goods and instruments, records, appliances, radios, jewelry, stationery, hardware, photographic supplies, sporting goods, sewing supplies, groceries and more. With its handy gas pump and assortment of merchandise, Keauhou Store was a popular place for local coffee farmers and nearby residents to shop. Poor roads and lack of transportation encouraged support of neighborhood stores.

With the extension of Highway 11, Kuakini Highway, in 1967, traffic that formerly passed by Keauhou Store’s front porch on Mamalahoa Highway was diverted. Keauhou Store struggled to survive as discount supermarkets lured customers to Kailua-Kona.

Yoshisuke lived a long life and died at age 88. Rikyo continued to run the store, but in 1995 he decided to remove the gas pumps and tanks rather than replace them as the Environmental Protection Agency required, further slowing business. He never married and passed away in 2009, when the store passed to his older brother, Gilbert, 90-plus and living on Oahu. No other family members wanted to take on the business, so it was put up for sale. That is where Kurt and Thea Brown came in. The Holualoa couple bought it, began renovations in 2010, and reopened Keauhou Store in 2011.

Copyright 1988 Kona Historical Society. Reprinted by permission.