story by Leslie Lang
photo by Peter French
Kimura Store, at the junction of Hualalai Street and Mamalahoa Highway in Holualoa, started out selling food, clothes, lanterns, kerosene and other necessities of life on the plantation. The Kimuras’ granddaughter, Alfreida Fujita, says that accepting lauhala items in barter and then selling them helped her family survive the difficult Depression years. "My grandparents would tell the Hawaiian women to make the baskets tight and strong so the coffee farmers could use them to pick coffee," she remembers.
When supermarkets began popping up in the 1950s, the family phased out food and began focusing almost solely on lauhala. Now great-granddaughter Renee Kimura runs the store, where beautiful lauhala hats, baskets, mats and other products are handmade by twenty local weavers, many of whom have woven for the shopor whose mothers wove for the shopfor decades.
"In our daily lives, we have our own Japanese heritage," says Renee, standing amidst the woody, natural smell of lauhala that fills the shop. "But the heritage of lauhala is so much a part of Hawaiian culture. It’s something really special we have here on the island."
Kimura Lauhala Shop