Continuing the Trade

Independent grocer manages his family’s business.

By Melissa Kelsey

“Independent grocers are a dying breed,” said Kevin Misaki, the General Manager at Misaki’s in Kaunakakai. The father of three children and an avid fisher and diver, Misaki is the third generation manager of the Molokai family-owned grocery.

From new refrigeration equipment to fresh coats of paint, shoppers at Misaki’s have enjoyed the shop’s recent improvements. New cash registers will be installed in six months or so, according to Misaki. The roof has been repaired and internal construction renovations have made the grocery more shopper-friendly. Misaki said Molokai’s small population dissuades large chain-store competitors and helps small businesses like Misaki’s thrive.

Misaki came back to Molokai in 1979 to continue his family’s business after he graduated from college on Oahu. He said he had initially considered majoring in Oceanography, but later changed course and graduated with a degree in Marketing because he thought it would be easier to find a job on Molokai in that field.

“I think for young people, it is how important it is to actually live here,” said Misaki. “It is about what they are willing to sacrifice.”

Like Misaki’s, most major businesses in town are owned by families who eventually pass store management down to their children, according to Misaki. However, he said as time goes on, it gets more and more difficult for families to have a successor who wants to manage the business.

“Lots of kids do not want to come home, but then later they discover that they do,” said Misaki.

Misaki explained that it is difficult to find a well-paying job on Molokai, as a result of lower industry salaries compared to the mainland and some other islands.

“It is hard to come back and plan something,” he said. “It is more about being in the right place at the right time.”

Misaki has mostly positive words for Molokai’s young people starting their own businesses, but urges them to be realistic about risks and do their research.

“I see young people who try to start a business and I applaud them,” he said. “That way you can have the freedom of being your own boss.”

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