Story by Jessica Machado
Photos by Matt Mallams
As Waikiki changes, so does Henry Takahashi. He’s moved his tiny fresh-fruit store three times in the last thirty years, first to make way for the Trump Tower, then to the Imperial Hotel and finally to its current space next to a moped rental shop hidden in the footprint of Waikiki Beach Walk. A threadbare family-owned produce stand isn’t the kind of thing you find in Waikiki these days; you’d think it would be swallowed by the shopping centers, glitzy new restaurants and high-rise condos. But Henry hasn’t let that happen.
Instead he’s expanded. Now he’s locally famous for his mountainous fruit bowls of papaya, pineapple and apple banana as well as his sorbet and ice cream. Each day he churns out nearly one hundred servings of flavors like mango, guava, coconut and Kona coffee from his modest ice cream maker in a room behind the counter. He doesn’t add preservatives or artificial flavoring and uses only six ingredients— fruit, eggs, milk, sugar, cream and coloring —all for $5 per nine-ounce cup.
His resourcefulness with fruit (he used to make his own shave ice syrup) is a family gift. His father, who like Henry is often sitting with the customers in the plastic lawn chairs out front, began his career driving around neighborhoods, selling fresh-picked fruits and veggies out of his truck in the 1940s and ’50s. The family then took the business to swap meets until Henry opened his place in 1982. And though he’s had to bob and weave a bit since, Henry’s Place remains a Waikiki institution—mostly thanks to digital word of mouth.
With each relocation, economic swing and technological advancement, Henry’s customer base shifts—from hotel workers to Japanese tourists to the current influx of Mainland visitors. “I have people coming in from all over saying they heard about me on Yelp. I was like, ‘What does ‘Yelp’ mean?’” Henry laughs. “It’s nice to read,” he says about the rave reviews customers post on the web site. “But man, it sure is a different world now.”