Editor’s Page: General Interest

Hawai‘i’s general stores bring us what we want and sometimes need.
Photo: Adam Jung

General stores in the Islands take us to a place that intersects nostalgic small-kid memories with the convenience of a neighborhood market, alongside a large helping of ‘ono homemade food.


The general stores we trekked to for this month’s cover story dish up some things we need and lots of things we want. These days, the stores tend to thrive best away from the competition of larger chain stores in the urban core. Our general rule was that we would include businesses that sold a mix of practical items—toothpaste, TP and Tabasco—and some specialties that make them stand out. Basic mini-marts, even those with historic exteriors, didn’t make the cut; places that specialize in food and drink without some grocery component didn’t either.


While many of the stores require a drive to the country, one of our favorites closer to town is Alicia’s Market in Kalihi Kai, where generations of the Kam family have been taking care of customers since 1949. Yes, the smoked meat is epic, the poke selection grows each year and the prepared foods range from noodles and cone sushi to peanuts (prepared three different ways). But there’s also always something new, such as the pa‘i‘ai made of smoked taro or the latest grab-and-go salmon salad. What doesn’t change is the friendly knowledgeable service from someone in the extended Kam family, where at least one of them will likely remember your name, what you usually order or that your brother was in last week. Leonard Kam, son of namesake Alicia, remains the president and general manager, but he’s got lots of help from sons, Chris and Brad, sisters, nephews and more family members than we could list here.


Across the island, at Waikane Store, the Tokuzato family survives the big-box competition with the combination of homemade food and stuff you need. The family serves up maki sushi, the old-school way, fully wrapped in wax paper, the simple tuna kine as well as a hot dog maki that doesn’t need any shoyu. And they’ve got fishing supplies, guitar strings and even a slushie machine.


We’re happy to welcome the main writer for this story, Don Wallace—who wove together this piece on O‘ahu as a freelance writer—as our new senior editor. Don brings more than 30 years’ experience as a writer and editor, including stints at Time Inc., Conde Nast, Hearst and The New York Times Co. He’s covered subjects ranging from travel, entrepreneurs and the environment to women golfers, yachting and Hawaiian music. He first came to Hawai‘i in 1969 with family, staying in half-completed apartment buildings that his father was appraising for their owners. After growing up in Long Beach, California, Don spent much of his career in New York City until he moved to Honolulu in 2009. He is the author of four books, most recently The French House: An American Family, a Ruined Maison, and the Village that Restored Them All.  He is married to Honolulu Star-Advertiser features writer and former Honolulu Weekly editor Mindy Pennybacker who prompted the move home to Hawai‘i.  He and Mindy first met at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the 1970s when they both submitted stories about Hawai‘i. Although Mindy’s family started Halm’s Kim Chee, Don was not responsible for the jar we photographed for this piece. Find Don’s photo and a little more about him and our other contributors on page 16 in the magazine.


I’d also like to say thanks and bid aloha to our digital media manager, Ambika Castle, who has left our magazine for her own entrepreneurial gig. Last year, Ambika’s arrival brought energy, innovation and a fun, creative spirit to our team. She and Diane Lee proved a dynamic digital duo.  We’ll miss her, but know that she made a positive difference for us.


Also in this issue, our fashion team found a playful way to share spring trends, with the models getting all dolled up for this fresh-from-the-box look at new clothes and accessories, page 44. And writer Mari Taketa introduces us to Honolulu’s biggest restaurateur you’ve never heard of, the man behind honey toast, page 75 in the magazine.


Welcome to spring!


If we missed your favorite general store, we’d like to hear about it, so we can circle back for future stories. Send me an email at robbied@honolulumagazine.com.


Read More Stories by Robbie Dingeman