Editor’s note: West Hawaii Today, in conjunction with the Kona Historical Society, is pleased to present readers a weekly feature compiled by the society called “A Guide to Old Kona.” These articles and accompanying photographs have been compiled and provided by Kona Historical Society and were published previously in a book of the same title.
M. Onizuka Store
Founded in 1933 by Masamitsu Onizuka and his wife Mitsue Nagata, M. Onizuka Store served the people of Keopu, North Kona, for 57 years. As a general merchandise store, it was a convenient one-stop shop filled with tubs of shoyu, tins of Saloon Pilot crackers, 100-pound bags of rice, sacks of salted codfish, and jars of candy. Mr. Onizuka also had a chauffeur’s license and ran a taxi service from the store. He was particularly busy on Election Day, driving voters to and from the polling places in Kailua. After her husband passed away, Mrs. Onizuka ran the store until the day of her death in 1990 at the age of 76. Today it is a private residence.
Onizuka Store holds a special place in the hearts of Kona’s residents, for it was here that Ellison Onizuka, America’s first astronaut of Japanese-American descent and Hawaii’s first astronaut, was raised. His example of a Japanese-American country boy reaching a position of fame and honor throughout the United States made all Hawaii proud. When he died in the Challenger explosion on January 28, 1986, shock and grief at his tragic death was felt worldwide. Onizuka’s memory is cherished, especially here in Kona, where friends and neighbors still remember little Ellison with stars in his eyes, playing under the coffee trees.
Although Onizuka Store is not open to the public, visitors may tour the Onizuka Space Center at Kona International Airport for more information about Ellison Onizuka.
Copyright 1998 Kona Historical Society. Reprinted by permission.