Finding Beretania

The people, businesses, landmarks, history and food that make this street such an integral part of Honolulu’s cityscape.


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photo BY David Croxford

Asian Grocery

You’ve probably already enjoyed Asian Grocery’s wares, even if you’ve never set foot in its crowded interior: shelves packed with cans and jars, boxes against the wall filled with unfamiliar goodies. “We supply most Thai and Vietnamese restaurants,” says Ravi Winter, the store’s manager. It’s worth making the trip yourself, though. The store has been importing its products directly from Asia since 1976, guaranteeing that you are getting the real deal. “A lot of companies take a certain spice or sauce and adapt it for Western tastes,” Winter says. “Our seasonings are authentic, just like they would taste in their home countries.” 1319 S. Beretania St., 593-8440.

photo BY David Croxford

Occidental Life Insurance Co.

What is that thing? An aircraft control tower? People have been wondering since 1967, when the Occidental Life Insurance Co. added a third story and the iconic cantilevered office to its building. The original Arizona sandstone-covered building, designed by Lemmon & Freeth, was built in 1951. And while the cantilevered section resembles something you’d see at the airport, it’s just an office and boardroom for the insurance company; no need to worry about jets landing on Beretania. 1163 S. Beretania St.

photo BY Sergio Goes

Mercado de la Raza

Sometimes, fast-food tacos just don’t do it. When you want real Mexican flavors, Mercado de la Raza (The People’s Market), Martha Sanchez’ Latin American grocery store, is the place to go. She has been selling exotic spices and other unique products for 14 years. Her tamales, made only twice a month, are popular, as well as her Peruvian produce, which you can’t find anywhere else. For a quick snack, pick up some salsa or guacamole, which she makes herself with fresh ingredients. “People just want authentic ingredients,” Sanchez says. “Chefs like coming here because they know they’re getting the real thing.” 1315 S. Beretania St., 593-2226.

photo BY Michael Keany

>> The symbolism of Central Union Church:

¥ The 12 sanctuary pillars represent the 12 apostles.
¥ The three lanterns at the church entry represent the holy trinity.
¥ The 10 French doors lining the church remind parishioners of the 10 Commandments.
1660 S. Beretania St., 941-0957.

Beretania Firsts:

1. The first traffic light in Honolulu was erected at the intersection of Nuuanu Avenue and Beretania Street on February 19, 1936.

2. Frozen food first arrived in Hawaii in 1938, when Rawley’s Ice Cream on South Beretania Street received a shipment of Birdseye products.

3. Oahu’s first major bridge was most likely the one that carries North Beretania Street across Nuuanu Stream. It cost $1,200 to build in 1840, which would be $21,915 today. The original bridge was destroyed by a flood seven years later.

4. In 1847, Honolulu’s first water supply pipe was built, linking a kalo field on Beretania to the wharf at Nuuanu Avenue.

5. Hawaii’s first two-way escalator began transporting weary shoppers in June 1947, when Sears, Roebuck and Co. opened the second floor of its Beretania St. department store.

Pet groomer Nick Kedl snuggles four of his customers.

photo BY Sergio Goes

Groom & Go

While cats don’t need pedicures, they do need their nails trimmed, and maybe an occasional bath. As any cat owner knows, both can be prickly tasks. Nick Kedl, a pet groomer at Groom & Go, has discovered the secret to washing a feline without the fury. “What you have to do is pick them up by the back of their necks. That relaxes them,” he says. If you’re going on a vacation, you can also check out Groom & Go’s boarding service. And it’s not just for cats and dogs. “Right now we have parakeets and rats,” he says. 1351 S. Beretania St., 596-4575.

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