KAPAA — The Kapaa Liquor and Wine Company, LLC, a landmark in Kapaa since 1940, is corking up its bottles for good.
Owner Lyle Kuboyama, who has happily served his loyal customers since taking over the family business 20 years ago, is ready to retire.
What he likes and will miss most about his job is being around people — a trait he picked up from his mother.
“My mom loved the store because she got to work with the people, see the people,” the 71-year-old said, adding that he’s looking forward to the next, relaxing, stage of his life.
The store, located at 4-1397 Kuhio Highway, will close at the end of June.
And what a ride it’s been.
Kuboyama took over the business from his mother when he was 51 in 1995. Back in 1940, his family moved to Kapaa and bought the business. Not only has it been in the family for decades, but it has since been rebuilt from the ground up. In 1982, the roofing and second floor of the structure was damaged during Hurricane Iwa, and that’s when his father decided to rebuild it.
It’s a bittersweet feeling for some loyal customers, who grew accustomed to swinging by the shop to pick up libations from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“He’s a really nice guy, this place is historic,” customer Jenson Daligdig said. “Great memories here, good times.”
How Kuboyama came to take over the store is a story by itself.
That same year that Hurricane Iwa happened, Kuboyama returned home from Oregon. He moved to Oregon after graduating from Kapaa High School. While in Oregon, he attended the Oregon College of Education in Monmouth. He began teaching art classes to junior high school students, but was soon drafted by the army in 1969 to Vietnam.
His stint in Vietnam was short-lived, and he served only three months due to a head injury he received while in the line of fire.
“The point man got hit and I dropped to the ground to help him, and then I got hit by an RPG,” he said, adding that he has shrapnel in both his back and his legs, and the scar on his head remains.
“I have to part my hair to follow and hide the scar line,” he said.
Fortunately for Kuboyama, the injury made it possible for him to go back to school and get his master’s degree, and teach art students again for a few more years, and even attend business school.
Since returning to Kauai and working out of the liquor store, it’s been business as usual. Although most of his family is now living on Oahu, Lyle Kuboyama’s brother Haven Kuboyama owns the Electrical Appliance store next door in the same building. They go back and forth together between each others’ businesses, pitching in an extra hand when needed.
Although Lyle will be retiring from the liquor store after his business permits expire at the end of June, he’ll remain close by. He plans to help his brother by picking up deliveries of supplies for the appliance store. He also looks forward to having time to do art and painting again, a hobby of he rarely has time for.
“I love this place,” customer Robin Torquati said. “But he gets to retire, so that’s a good thing.”