Historic site finds new purpose

KOLOA — A new Old Koloa Town treasure has emerged from behind the main thoroughfare’s tall guinea grass. Actually, the place is not so new.

The historic building was the home of Kaua‘i’s first radio and telephone office built in 1926 during the plantation era. But most oldtimers simply know it as Uncle Bill’s house.

After Uncle Bill moved away, the building’s owners, Old Koloa Town’s physician Dr. Michael Murray and his wife Valerie, decided to give the old place a new purpose.

With the help of the local community, the Murrays have spent the last year transforming the business turned residence back into a business again. Two weeks ago, they officially opened Koloa Town Salon.

“I never even thought about opening a salon,” said Valerie, who has degrees in art, anatomy and cellular-level physiology. After her five boys were grown, she decided she wanted to go back to work and chose to become a licensed aesthetician. The vacant historic building inspired her to open her own salon.

The building is one of the last of a handful of truly original buildings in Old Koloa Town, Valerie said. Most burnt down in a fire years ago.

During the plantion era, the old telephone office allowed Koloa’s doctor to stay in touch with Lihu‘e and allowed plantation workers to call home to family in the Philippines, she said.

Its wood ceiling and walls are all original and showing little sign of age. “When they built things back then, they soaked the wood in saltwater to prevent termite damage,” she said.

Getting the property, which is zoned open special treatment cultural, approved for commercial use took a lot of time, she said. It required approval not only from the county, but from the Historical Society because the building, as well as her husband’s medical office just a stone’s throw away, is on the national register of historic places, she said.

Valerie said that by turning the building back into a business, rather than a rental residence, she can better control the site’s maintenance and care and preserve it for all of Kaua‘i. 

She said Uncle Bill was good about keeping the place up. “If there was a leak in the roof, he’d use bubble gum to stop it,” she said. “We just never did anything with it until he was gone.”

The Murrays purchased the site from Val Knudsen 10 years ago. After Uncle Bill left a couple of years ago, the Murrays found new tenants, but they we’re neglectful, she said.

“We worked so hard repairing the place after the last tenants,” she said. “We knew if we rented it again, we would be subjecting it to more damage.”

That’s when she suggested to her husband that they turn the building into a salon.

Valerie said she greatly appreciates the salon’s hair stylist Michelle Mo‘e for her help in opening and marketing the new salon business. Dr. Murray introduced the two beauty business-minded ladies a few months ago, and they became fast friends and a dynamic team, Mo‘e said. Mo‘e’s husband, Robin, is a chef at the Beach House.

The five-person staff at Koloa Town Salon offers facials, skin therapies and treatments — including extractions, galvanic polarity facials and the Dermaquest product line — hair styling and color services, massage therapy, waxing, and parafin and Shellac manicures and pedicures.

For a complete list of their services, see the menu card on their website at www.koloatownsalon.com or call 742-9957.

Koloa Town Salon is located at 5335 Koloa Rd. across the street from the pharmacy. The salon’s hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Walk-ins are welcome but appointments are recommended.

• Vanessa Van Voorhis, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 251) or by emailing vvanvoorhis@thegardenisland.com.

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