story by Dennis Hollier
photo by Brad Goda
“No more fried chicken,” 78-year-old Nadine Tokuzato tells the fourth customer in a row at Waikane Store. “Got sushi, though.”
She gestures through mosquito netting into what appears to be the family kitchen. There, her sister, Makiko Gishi, sits at the kitchen table laconically rolling out makizushi. She smiles back into the store, where several customers obligingly await the next batch.
The sign out front says, “Since 1898.” But there’s hardly anything for sale at Waikane Store: soft drinks, crack seed and a few sundries like toilet paper and soap. Unlike some of the other country stores on O‘ahu, Waikane Store doesn’t sell booze or cater to the tourist trade. It’s not hard, though, to see how this family operation stays in business. Hulking in the corner is an enormous stainless steel freezer full of chicken parts and shrimp.
All day long, customers shuffle into Waikane Store for the home cooking. They come for the little tubs of fried chicken or shrimp fritters, for the sushi (including the popular hot-dog maki with Coleman mustard) and for the homemade cookies and boiled peanuts. Makiko and Nadine cook it all in small batches—sometimes while customers wait—so it’s always fresh.
It’s an old-fashioned store that’s been in the same family since the 1940s. “Mama-san,” Haruko Tsutsui, took over the operation in 1959. Her daughter, Nadine, has run it for the last thirty-four years. Three generations of the family still live in the rooms behind the store.
Most of their customers are regulars: A young man with “Kahalu‘u Boy” tattooed on his chest wanders in and asks Nadine, “How da shrimp?”
“Here, I give you a taste,” she says, handing him a small tub to sample.
He takes a bite. “Oh wow,” he says, “da bugga’s ‘ono. I’ll take two.”
Like most customers, he ends up buying a little of everything, walking out with some sushi and a bag of boiled peanuts to go with his shrimp. Nadine bags up his purchase with a little twinkle in her eye. At Waikane Store you sample at your own risk.