Kinipopo Shopping Village celebrates 30th anniversary

WAILUA — As Beth Harrison flips through the pages of her scrapbook, she often smiles. She laughs, too, at some of the pictures of people who were part of her life three decades ago.

These were, clearly, good times for Harrison, and the memories remain not just in her mind, but her heart.

When asked what she treasures most about being there from the very start of Kinipopo Shopping Village and its grand opening in 1986, and still the owner today, she smiles again.

“The personal relationships,” Harrison said. “I enjoyed that the most, meeting so many people. Just good, good people.”

The energetic and outgoing 71-year-old is back on Kauai and will be at that shopping center that was land with business potential when she and her husband Phil Harrison purchased it nearly 50 years ago from his father, Robert Harrison.

“We bought it with the intent of actually building a shopping center there when we could gain enough money. That’s a major investment. We were young,” Beth Harrison said.

The first businesses on the property were Vic The Barber (Vic DeAnda), the Wailua General Store run by Larry Gates, and Kinipopo Mini Golf. The nine-hole course was open about five years.

“It was a beautiful little course,” she said.

When it became a shopping center, the original lineup included Kinipopo Pizza; First Choice Realty; Goldsmith’s Gallery;, Village Variety Store;, Barbie and Ken’s World of Hawaiian Wear; Wailua Surf and Beachwear; Kristopher-Dion Inc., a gold and seashell jewelry store; Bachman’s, which offered gifts and fashion; Chopstix Chinese Restaurant; Toucan’s; Mail Service Center and Kinipopo Country Store.

The original concept was to have a shopping center with all Kauai products.

Over the years, businesses came and went. There were ups and downs, mostly ups, as the shopping center proved popular. Kinipopo, which means “small ball” or “on the ball,” survived Iniki with minor damage.

“Goldsmith’s Gallery is the only business left from the initial group, but we have had many wonderful tenants through the years,” Beth Harrison said.

Today, it’s a hub of thriving shops and eateries at 4356 Kuhio Highway, and is celebrating its 30th anniversary from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with music, hula, food and prizes.

Beth Harrison credits her late husband, who passed away at age 68 in 2011, for the success of the shopping center. He had a degree in political science and a brief career in education before going into real estate in Lawrence, Kansas, where the Harrisons lived.

The Harrisons were married 43 years.

Phil Harrison was personable and offered a big smile. He was known as a fair and smart businessman with a knack for striking friendships.

“He became quite a good Realtor and was an excellent salesman,” Beth said. “My husband used to say, ‘I reserve the right to work with people whom I find pleasant.’”

There were just a few businesses in the area when Kinipopo opened, with Coco Palms still going strong just down the highway.

“At that point there were just strip malls along Kuhio Highway, so this could provide better visibility,” Beth Harrison said.

Phil and Beth Harrison traveled from Kansas a few times a year to check on the shopping village and enjoy life on Kauai. Even after Phil’s death, Beth continues to visit often, and will be greeting people today at the anniversary celebration.

Businesses at Kinipopo include: Korean Bar-B-Q, Mr. and Mrs. Gun-Soon Lee, proprietors; Monico’s Taqueria, Monico and Kathleen Hernandez-Martinez, proprietors; Goldsmiths Kauai, Dana Romsdal and Mark Maedor, proprietors; Passion Bakery Cafe, Michael Sterioff and Magda Latif-Sterioff proprietors; Haole Girl Sweets, Judith Capertina proprietor; Kauai Landmark Realty, Phil and Larry Fudge proprietors; Sacred Waters Healing Arts, Shakira Freeman proprietor; and Old Republic Title Company.

“The courtyard is still so pretty,” Beth Harrison said. “We tried to make it look good from the road because a lot of shopping centers looked like forts, so they didn’t beckon you in. We wanted to make sure it looked nice.”

It does.

She encourages people to stop by, say hello and visit the businesses there. She boasts about Monico’s Taqueria.

“I think it’s the best Mexican food, but I may be prejudiced,” she said, laughing.

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