Kenzo Urabe (1898-1971), the founder and proprietor, along with his wife, Shizue Urabe (1903-1959), of Urabe Store – a Kapaa landmark on Ulu St. for many decades until it closed in the mid-1990s – was born in Japan and immigrated to Kauai with his parents, Katsutaro and Chika Urabe, in 1899.
Prior to opening Urabe Store in the early 1920s, he farmed land in Wailua and Kapaa Homesteads, while Shizue cooked for Rev. Willey of All Saints Episcopal Church.
Shizue mainly ran the store, while Kenzo made deliveries, picked up goods, did bookkeeping and so forth, and they and their six children lived on the 2nd floor above the store.
Eventually, their son, Ralph Urabe (1924-2009), and Ralph’s wife, Katie Urabe (1924-2015), purchased the store, with Katie working full-time in the store, and Ralph assisting after his regular job with the post office.
Urabe Store was a true mom and pop general store, best known as a fresh fish and fishing goods store, initially open 7 days a week, but was later closed on Sundays.
Because it was a fishing store, fishermen would go there from all over the island to sell their catch.
Ralph Urabe would dry fresh akule for sale, and on a blackboard outside the store would be written what varieties of fish were available.
Urabe Store also sold meat, chicken feed, clothing, Christmas trees, shave ice, dry goods and kerosene, and Katie Urabe would make and sell “hard ice,” a concoction of Malolo syrup, water, and condensed cream – a delicious snack for 10 cents!
The store also accommodated a barber shop where for some years Pedring Ponce cut hair.
After school or church, kids would always stop by the store to buy soda, ice cream, or candy, and there was a bench in front of the store, where customers, mostly plantation workers, would sit and talk story.
Inside, Katie’s friends, salesmen and delivery men would sit by the cashier counter and talk story when business was slow.
Kauai Marine &Mower began leasing the store in the 1990s and is still operating there today.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org