Hanapepe town comes alive, embraces its history
HONOLULU - "If the side doors open, we're open, and we have chips," proclaimed Stanley Sakoda.
The Taro Ko Chips Factory's been his stomping grounds for decades.
It's hard to believe the run-down building is still standing. It used to be the neighborhood saimin shop, but for years now, it's been frying up glistening, salty taro chips for years.
"Every Friday, Saturday night, we knew what our dinner was: saimin. We'd come right here, said Sakoda, who now helps out, by taking chips out of the oven.
Of course, he does it, without sacrificing his lifestyle favorites.
"This, I call it my vitamin B," he said, holding up a can of Coors Light.
"And this is my vitamin C," he adds, pulling out a bottle of Crown Royal. "I take it every day," he said with a loud chuckle.
To Sakoda, Hanapepe is home.
His sleepy little town hidden from the highway, once shy to the spotlight, is now starting to shine a different shade.
"We just do our best to provide what people want," said Ed Justus.
Ed and Cynthia Justus opened the Talk Story Bookstore 10 years ago in what used to be Yoshiyura General Market.
"It survived multiple hurricanes and it's still standing thanks to the termites probably and we've been the first successful business since they closed," said Cynthia.
A balance between old and new is now the heartbeat of Hanapepe.
"It still really has a feel of the Kauai I remember," said artist and business owner Joanna Carolan.
Just like Ed and Cynthia, Carolan has thrived through the spirit of the past.
Outside of her Banana Patch Studio are pictures of old and grant money has funded erecting other pictures elsewhere.
Each one helps to conjure up the stories this town has to tell.
"It wasn't a plantation town, so it was originally entrepreneurs," she said.
In the early days, innovative Hawaiians harvested salt from nearby ponds.
Then, independent Asian workers set up shop and built bridges -- the Swinging Bridge is still a famous landmark.
At the time, it was one of only a few places not controlled by plantations.
In 1924, the tiny town made big news.
At least 16 were shot dead in the Hanapepe Massacre as Asian workers challenged others to maintain their independence.
By World War Two, soldiers and sailors were flocking to the main hub, Port Allen, boosting business in town.
"The United Officers Club was next door. This was a pool hall," she said, referring to her Banana Patch Studio.
"We used to have two theatres," added Sakoda.
Locals Clayton Ueno and Steve Kurokawa remembered the streams of soldiers, sailors, and merchants walking into town from port side.
"When we were young, we'd be riding out on the road and you see all the merchant marines walking to town because this is where all the bars were. We had seven bars and seven churches in the town," said Ueno.
"The town will evolve as it has over the years," said Carolan.
It's evolved again and again, dying down in the 70s, reawakening in recent years, but, at its own pace and in its own way.
"This is something that's going to go up at the end of the summer," explained Carolan, giving KITV4 reporter Lara Yamada a tour of her busy ceramics studio.
"We went from selling jewelry, now we have everything from hotdogs, to jewelry, to Niihau shells," added Gayle Sagucio, who runs JJ Ohana's just a few stores down from Carolan's place.
Residents say lunch time on a weekday, is typically relatively slow and comfortable, but come Friday night, the small town comes alive.
The art galleries open their doors and share their work inside and outside.
The two-lane street is lined with food trucks, food stands, musicians, and a rainbow of items for sale -- most of it -- made on Kauai.
"If you walk around on a Friday night, Hanapepe is the essence of entrepreneurialism," said Ed Justus.
"I like the quiet life," said Sakoda.
He's not sure how he feels about the town's more recent changes, but he knows the quiet life he craves, helps to keep Hanapepe special.
What is changing, still seems to be happening at its own pace, in its own way.
At its own pace. In its own way.
"What do you want them to know about Hanapepe town?" Yamada asked Sakoda.
"I just want them to come and buy chips," he said laughing.
OK, Stanley. We will.
Some other interesting facts:
Former Hanapepe mayor Eduardo Malapit was the first American-Filipino Mayor in the United States.
Beloved U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga called Hanapepe home.
And the town was the inspiration for the Disney animated film "Lilo & Stitch."