Story by Lynn Cook
Photos by Kyle Rothenborg
Harry Yoshioka, born in 1909, played the trumpet and conducted the famed Hawaii Shochiku Orchestra in the 1940s. He’d wanted to open a shoe store but decided on a music store instead. To some of O‘ahu’s greatest musicians he was a “pay me when you can” kind of guy, and his warm, casual charm made Harry’s a venerable if threadbare institution.
Harry’s has always carried sheet music, recordings and instruments. Back in the day shoppers could put a record on a turntable and listen. If they liked it, they would buy it. If not, they put it back. Alan gestures to a shelf of open CD boxes. “Now they all come packaged, but I still keep personal copies so customers can hear what they are buying.”
Since the beginning the store has supported the ambitions of Hawai‘i’s young musicians: It supplies and repairs the instruments for Hawai‘i schools, and the tiny back rooms have been the site of lessons from Hawai‘i’s maestros. Grammy winner Daniel Ho taught guitar. Slack key master Keola Beamer paid his UH tuition teaching classical guitar. Steel guitarist Jerry Byrd gave lessons to visitors from New York and Japan.