So long to an island staple

LIHUE — Doors to the Lawai Menehune Mart will close for good May 13.

The announcement was made by Charles Kawakami, president of Menehune Food Mart, Inc. on Friday.

“I want to express our deepest appreciation to the community for their support, and to our employees for their hard work and dedication — most especially to Mrs. Gert Toma, who developed the Menehune Food Mart a long time ago and made it a local favorite over the years,” Kawakami said in a release.

Kawakami would not say why the store is closing, other than that a decision was made to not renew the lease. Following weeks of swirling rumors, the closing of the popular convenience store is now a reality.

And it will be missed.

Lawai Menehune Food Mart, located on Kaumualii Highway adjacent to the Lawai Post Office, has been a mainstay for locals and visitors alike, offering a variety of everyday convenience items in addition to homemade goods from the well-known buttery “Lawai Manju” to Spam musubi, chi chi dango, UFO’s, a creation using Goteborg sausage topped with a scoop of rice sprinkled with furikake nori, manapua, malasada and much more.

“Oh no,” said Brandon Ho, manager of the Regency at Puakea retirement and assisted living facility, when he learned of the news. “Where are we going to find omiyage for when we go to Honolulu?”

Brianne Salvador of Kapaa said the store was always a stopping point on trips to the Westside — mostly for food.

“I really liked the manju — especially the sweet potato ones,” Salvador said. “I guess we’ll have to find another place to stop between Kapaa and the Westside.”

The Lawai Menehune Food Mart was started by Sakae and Ruth Matsuura during the pineapple cannery heyday in a location across the Lawai Ditch from the cannery.

It moved to its current location following the closure of the cannery in the 1960s, and was taken over by MFM, Inc., which is owned by the HS Kawakami and the Minoru Furugen families.

“We took over the store following Hurricane Iniki,” Kawakami said. “Mrs. Gert Toma took over the day-to-day operations and continued to produce the popular Lawai Manju. She also developed many other items, which became very popular, including the cream malasadas, nishime, ginger chicken, and assorted bento, just to name a few. Now that Mrs. Toma has retired, we decided it was the right time for all of us to move on. It is sad, and we will miss her, and the store. But at the same time, it is always good to start a new chapter.”

Chiera Sherman of the Westside said the custard pie was her favorite.

“They make their own,” she said. “You can’t find pies like that anywhere.”

Kawakami said he is hopeful the employees at the Lawai Menehune Food Mart will continue their dedication and commitment at other Menehune Food Mart locations.

“We treasure all of our Lawai Menehune Food Mart employees and hope they will continue to work with us in our other locations,” he said.

MFM, Inc. owns and operates four Menehune Food Mart convenience stores, two Subway Sandwich outlets, and two Shell gas stations on Kauai.

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