Hawaiian Canneries Co. of Kapaa closes

Hawaiian Canneries Co., which cultivated pineapple on 3,400 acres scattered over 35 miles from Hanamaulu to Hanalei, and processed and canned its pineapple at Kapaa canneries, now the site of Pono Kai Resort, shut down in 1962 after being in business for nearly 50 years.

The first announcement of the company’s impending closure occurred in February 1960, when H.C. Eickelberger, vice president of American Factors, Ltd., which controlled the pineapple company, stated that Hawaiian Canneries Co. had never been extra profitable, and between 1950 and 1960, cost factors had been increasing — particularly taxes, labor costs and foreign competition, notably from Taiwan.

News of Hawaiian Canneries’ approaching shut down and the gradual phasing out of business following Eickelberger’s announcement fell hard on the residents of Kapaa.

Hawaiian Canneries had long been the town’s biggest single employer, and closing meant about 250 regular employees would lose their jobs and 1,500 seasonal employees would forgo supplementary income.

Some laid-off employees would seek other employment at one of Kauai’s eight sugar plantations still in operation at that time — Kilauea, Lihue, Grove Farm, McBryde, Gay &Robinson, Olokele, Waimea and Kekaha.

Perhaps work would be found for others at Kauai’s two remaining pineapple producers — Kauai Pineapple Co. of Lawai, and Hawaiian Fruit Packers of Kapahi, which would only be in operation themselves until 1964 and 1973, respectively.

Retirement was another option for some, as was the promise of work on two state road projects expected to get underway in 1963.

Still others would leave Kauai, while a few would find jobs in Kauai’s expanding tourist industry.

With Hawaiian Canneries’ closing, its $1.5 million to $1.75 million annual payroll would be lost to the Kauai community, while the loss in federal and state tax revenue would be between $200,000 to $250,000 annually.

Julie Esquirra Beralas, my wife Ginger’s mother, and her aunts Mary and Naty had worked at the Kapaa pineapple cannery, and Ginger, herself, had been employed at the Kapahi cannery during the summer of 1966 while attending Kauai High School.
Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com

  1. Wil Welsh April 16, 2019 10:26 pm Reply

    Always enjoy your work, Hank! When I came to island in 1965, the remains of the pineapple processing buildings were still where Pono Kai condos are now. My neice worked in the Kawaihau cannery one summer when she was in 8th grade–quite an experience shared by a lot of Kapaa people in those days. I loved the pineapple fields because you could see over them all the way to the deep blue ocean in areas such as the land north of Anahola and toward Moloaa. Hard to fathom the pineapple industry died to be followed about 50 years later with the demise of sugar. Change is one constant, isn’t it? Keep up the good work, Hank!

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