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Food establishments have powerful sentimental value

By Cynthia Oi

LAST UPDATED: 9:14 p.m. HST, Jun 23, 2011

Hop Sing grocery store disappeared from the corner in Palolo Valley at least half a century ago, but 10th Avenue Market a couple of blocks away was there to supply the neighborhood with bologna and bread for lunch-bucket sandwiches, watercress and a pound of ground for dinner, and dried cuttlefish and the best shave ice ever for Sunday afternoon snacks.

Supermarkets, however, toughened the competition for the family business and as a car culture bloomed and more women took to the busyness of the workplace, the market also shuttered its doors.

A gas station-convenience store that now occupies the Hop Sing site stocks a few loaves of Love's and neon-colored ice pops, and though there's no shave ice, there's also no judgment here.

Convenience stores are what people want, a one-stop shop to fill the tank and grab a bag of chips and bottled salsa for Sunday game days.

Even so, if the gas-and-go mini-mart were to close, its patrons probably would not miss its presence as greatly as some Hawaii Kai and other East Oahu residents will apparently miss the Foodland store set to give way soon to a Walgreens.

Announcement of the change has touched off surprising protests. Because the locally owned supermarket has operated in Hawaii Kai for almost 50 years, people have grown accustomed to the place and its faces.

A similar proprietary attitude was displayed earlier this year when Kailua lost its Don Quijote after nearly four decades. Residents had shopped there since the store was called Holiday Mart. They continued to buy lacquer bowls and pickled cabbage under the Daiei banner, then salmon bento and other tasty dishes even after it adopted the strange name.

Part of the discontent was because the replacement would be a Target outlet, the chain retailer that can be found in Anytown, USA. Some thought Kailua was losing its identity, with one fellow characterizing the change as his town becoming "more like the mainland or Waikiki."

Residents of Hawaii Kai might take issue with the observation that much of their neighborhood came up only in mid-20th century and thus isn't entitled to claim old-time status. Nonetheless, community is community and food establishments have particular sentimental value in the islands.

The loss of Foodland has knocked residents for a loop and they're making noise about it, even to the point of calling their political representatives who arranged a meeting to discuss the matter.

One of them is Sen. Sam Slom, a champion of small business and tea party adherent who generally doesn't like government intrusion in private enterprises, but when voters speak, he and Rep. Gene Ward wisely leaned in. More than likely, however, the Koko Marina Shopping Center owners will go ahead with their plans.

Residents still have options for groceries with a Safeway and Costco nearby. If Foodland is their brand, they will have to head a few miles west to Aina Haina or further.

How inconvenient, but as a shopping center official said, "The market dictates what is successful."


Cynthia Oi can be reached at

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