I recently heard from my friend Gene Gelfo, who was one of the original tenants at King’s Alley in Waikiki. His Royal Peddler shop was a delight to visitors and locals alike for 47 years.
Gelfo told me that Chris Hemmeter was the owner/developer of King’s Alley when it opened in 1972 at a cost of $5 million.
Hemmeter was just 32 when he built it on property once owned by Prince Kuhio and Princess Kaiulani. He and his wife had come to Hawaii only 10 years earlier, in 1962, on borrowed money.
Hemmeter got a job as an assistant manager at the Royal Hawaiian hotel. A year later he went into business and developed the Top of the I restaurant and nightclub on the 30th floor of the Ilikai in 1964, and several other restaurants.
King’s Alley was a 32,000-square-foot retail shopping arcade on Kaiulani Avenue bordered by Koa Avenue, Prince Edward Street and Uluniu Avenue.
Leslie Fullard-Leo, whose family bought Princess Kaiulani’s 30-acre Ainahau estate in 1916, says the driveway to Ainahau later became Kaiulani Avenue and began at Koa Avenue (the Ewa-makai corner of King’s Alley).
The princess’s home was several blocks mauka, between Tusitala Street and the Ala Wai, where the Skyliner condo now stands.
King’s Alley had a Hawaiian royalty turn-of- the-century flavor. Months of research led designers to craft as authentically as possible a picturesque, storybook setting reminiscent of the King Kalakaua era.
The arcade was three stories, but a cobblestone “alley” rose gently from the first to the second level, allowing shoppers to avoid stairs. It also provided more stores with a street frontage. A restaurant occupied the third floor.
The Bishop Museum created a Heritage Theatre on the site and displayed possessions of Hawaii’s kings and queens. Also found were an ice cream parlor and the Rose & Crown pub.
Hemmeter called it an oasis of charm and pageantry. It reminded many of Disneyland’s Main Street USA and San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square.
King’s Alley created a kiosk near the entrance at a place where Prince Kuhio posted a guard to his Waikiki estate 100 years ago. A changing-of-the-guard ceremony took place every hour. The guard uniforms were authentic to royal times.
In 1982 King’s Alley changed its name to King’s Village. General Manager Jack Stevenson said the arcade did it to emphasize its historic aspects.
“All too often, visitors to Waikiki see little or nothing of the wealth of history that is Hawaii.” King’s Village would give them insight into our past and culture, he said.
King’s Village had a Celebrity Circle, sponsored by the Variety Club of Hawaii. Jack Lord, Don Ho, Carole Kai, Dolly Parton, Jim Nabors, Sammy Davis Jr. and many other stars left their handprints in concrete on the site.
King’s Village closed this year, and a 32-story Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare is planned for the property makua of the Hyatt Regency. Gelfo moved his shop, now called Rock Island Cafe, to 1911 Kalakaua Ave., near Fort DeRussy.
I heard from several readers about Elliott’s Chuckwagon, formerly at 1015 Kapiolani Blvd. near Ward Avenue.
It was Elliott’s Chuckwagon from 1956 to 1967 and then became the Flamingo Chuckwagon from 1967 to 1999.
Today it’s the Moana Vista condo. Ed and Betty Elliott began the restaurant, and their son, John, later took it over. It had an excellent prime rib buffet, and you could eat to your heart’s content. Many community groups met in its large private back room.
In 1964 you could get a complete buffet meal of prime roast beef, golden fried chicken, salads, vegetables, potatoes and macaroni and cheese at Elliott’s Chuckwagon for $2.95.
I remember a statue of a bucking horse was right outside the front door.
The family also had Elliott’s Coffee House in the Reef Towers in Waikiki and provided the food service in the Atherton YMCA on University Avenue.
The Elliotts had gotten their start, I believe, around 1946 when they ran a cafe within Stewart’s Pharmacy in Waikiki.
Steve Miura told me that 55 years ago, in 1964, 20 lucky female listeners, who were winners of a KPOI radio contest, got to have lunch with the popular English singing duo Peter & Gordon at Elliott’s Chuckwagon.
The next day, Peter & Gordon headlined a big rock ’n’ roll concert at the HIC Arena called “A Million Dollar Party.” Also on the show were the Beach Boys, Jan & Dean and the Kingsmen.
They were backed by the 12 piece “K-POI All Star Band,” which featured Glen Campbell on guitar, Phil Sloan on bass guitar and Hal Blaine on drums. The ticket prices for this event were $2 and $3. The emcee was Tom Moffatt.
Moffatt said Peter & Gordon were the first British Invasion artists to perform in Hawaii. Their hit at that time was “A World Without Love” (written by Paul McCartney).
Peter Asher and Gordon Waller met while attending school and sang at a coffee bar before making it big time. They’d written 400 songs but had recorded only seven of them, they said.
Jo Anne Yamamoto said, “My friend and I were one of those winners that had lunch with Peter & Gordon back in 1964.
“It was such a thrilling experience, and the duo were so nice. Gordon called me ‘the shy one’ when he pecked my cheek after I gave him a lei.
“To top off the memorable lunch, a couple of the Beach Boys rode up on their rented scooters in front of the Chuckwagon to say hello! They’d just finished an autograph session at the old GEM store on Ward Avenue.”
Several readers reminded me that Jeanlu Toys was at Kahala Mall when it opened. That’s true but it didn’t stay there long. Sales were never as good as at its Ala Moana Store, co-owner John Holt said.
Holt and his cousin Lucy Tu started the store in Waikiki in 1951. The store’s name is a combination of theirs.
One cute story: A boy came into their store in 1966 eating a dripping ice cream cone. The store had a policy against grubby fingers, and the boy was shown the door.
“A few minutes later four gentlemen wearing coats and ties came in,” recalled Holt. “Why did you put this little boy out? Do you know who this little boy is?”
Turns out the lad was John-John Kennedy. His mother, Jackie, was shopping next door at Liberty House.
Holt, whose given name was Ho, was the Shanghai- born son of a wealthy family that lost everything during World War II. He landed a job with CBS and then was stationed on Kauai by the U.S. government intercepting and interpreting Chinese broadcasts.
After the war his Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service, and other groups, became the CIA. Holt left and opened the toy store.
Jeanlu was Ala Moana Center’s first toy store in 1959 and was famous for its stuffed animals. Its last store in Kailua — built originally to use as a warehouse — closed around 1998 after 46 years in business.
The Rearview Mirror Insider is Bob Sigall’s weekly email that gives readers behind-the-scenes background, stories that wouldn’t fit in the column, and lots of interesting details. My Insider “posse” gives me ideas for stories and personal experiences that enrich the column. I invite you to join in and be an Insider at RearviewMirror Insider.com. Mahalo!