ABC Stores takes over Sueoka Market

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Rod Sueoka cleans the aisles of Sueoka Market in Koloa using a broom and dustpan.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Sueoka Market employees and management gather for a group photo for a final time in the Koloa establishment.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    The Sueoka Market leadership team includes, front from left Bernie Nunes, Wendy Kawaguchi, Rod Sueoka and Jackie Calpito. In back is Thomas Awong of ABC Stores. They are seen in the Koloa store.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Rod Sueoka, left, and Wendy Kawaguchi, right, turn over the traditional dust pan and broom to Thomas Awong of ABC Stores, at Sueoka Market in Koloa.

KOLOA — When doors to the Sueoka Market re-open at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, it will be another page in the saga of the store that started in 1918.

“The store is Sueoka Market,” said Thomas Awong of the ABC Stores, the new owners and operators of the little market and snack shop that is a mainstay among many residents and visitors to Koloa. “The name is on the main facade — Sueoka Market. Nothing (customers and shoppers have come to expect) has changed. It’s business as usual.”

Wendy Kawaguchi and Rod Sueoka are third generation of the Mankichi Sueoka family that started the market to fulfill a dream of providing a good life for his wife and children.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen Tuesday,” Kawaguchi said. “We’re still going to be helping with the transition, and there are all the bills for March that need to be taken care of. I don’t know — maybe some time in May, I might be able to turn off the alarm.”

Sueoka Market is open seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

“The store used to be closed Sundays,” said Rod Sueoka. “We also used to sell kerosene in the glass, one-gallon bottles for people who used it to fuel the stoves. Remember, Wendy? That was long before we got the parking lot, and people used to come in to fill their bottles.”

In 1933, Sueoka moved the camp store to its current location after leasing the building owned by Dr. Alfred H. Waterhouse and housing the Mitsunami Store, Kauai Motors showroom, and the Bishop Bank (now First Hawaiian Bank).

Wendy and Rod’s parents were part of the workforce that operated the store as it evolved from a general merchandise store selling tools, dry goods, to a grocery store with fresh produce, a meat and seafood department, and a snack shop selling plate lunches and hamburgers.

“We didn’t work until we were in elementary school,” Kawaguchi said. “We used to run around the shop a lot and play with Rod’s dog. Rod used to be at Poipu Inn (currently the home of Brennecke’s Beach Broiler) and we used to go for burgers, fries, ice cream and shave ice. Everybody went there.”

As Mankichi’s children — Edith Sueoka Hashiguchi, George, Ernest, and Lily Sueoka — matured, Mankichi’s grandchildren, including Kawaguchi, Rod and Charlene Rivera and great-grandson Dean Mori took over the tradition of providing friendly and personal service.

As the small plantation store started by Mankichi approached its centennial, the family decided to sell the store to ABC Stores, operating in the Sueoka tradition until Sunday night.

“They already started to make changes,” Rod said. “One of those includes the ‘Grab-N-Go’ section where popular items from the snack shop are prepackaged for shoppers to literally grab and go.”

But in the face of change to meet the challenges of contemporary retailing, ABC Stores remain committed toward the past.

“It’s business as usual,” Awong said. “Even the name is the same — Sueoka Market. It’s a no-brainer. This has been an adventure — melding the old with the new while keeping the feel of the old-style market.”

Sueoka Market will be closed on Monday for the final stages of the transition from the old to the new ABC Stores. It will re-open for business at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“It’s business as usual,” Awong said. “Nothing fancy.”

  1. harry oyama March 31, 2019 12:40 am Reply

    What a great tradition with many fond memories. I remember Rod’s dad used to manage the meat department and he would give us the bones for our dog to chew on for free! We used to go catch bull frogs in that stream that runs next to the store.

    Very friendly atmosphere, gonna miss it dearly.

  2. Victor Czerkasij April 13, 2019 4:19 pm Reply

    It was right after Hurricane Iniki when we were able to get some groceries and supplies at Sueoka’s, and I remember Rod’s son Troy helping out the family business, trying to get all of us food before it spoiled since the electricity was off. It was always great to come in a be recognized with a ‘hello’ — felt great.

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