Wednesday, November 25, 2015         


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Spencecliff spent decades atop local restaurant scene

The Weaver brothers operated more than 50 eateries until they sold the firm in 1986

By Bob Sigall

Special to the Star-Advertiser


The most popular and successful restaurant chain in the islands from 1939 through the 1970s was Spencecliff, which owned more than 50 family places.

It began in 1939 when Spence and Clifton Weaver opened Swanky Franky's Hot Dog Stand on Ena Road. After service in World War II, they formed the Spencecliff Corp. "Spencecliff" is a composite of Spencer's and Clifton's names, but few know it was also the name of their family's summer home in East Hampton, Long Island, N.Y.

Through the 1970s they operated more than 50 different restaurants, including the Ranch House, Tahitian Lanai, Coco's, Trader Vic's, Queen's Surf, Kelly's and South Seas.

"Spence was a Yale grad and the brains of the operation," recalls Miyuki Hruby, who started with Spencecliff in 1944. "He was fiery and flamboyant. Cliff was the younger brother by six years. Everybody loved him. He was a kind man, but Spence was 99 percent of the business. We were the most popular chain in town because Spence knew what the public wanted."

When this 1981 picture was taken, Fisherman's Wharf was one of Spencecliff's most successful restaurants. In 1986, Nittaku Corp. bought Spencecliff for $6 million, but losses forced Nittaku to close restaurants until only Fisherman's Wharf remained. It closed in 2008.


Bob Sigall, author of the "Companies We Keep" books, looks through his collection of old photos to tell stories each Friday of Hawaii people, places and companies. Email him at

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