Family Business Alive and Well
Takes hardware changes location, boosting business.
By Léo Azambuja
Despite the gradual population increase, much of Molokai’s main town, Kaunakakai, still looks almost the same as it was decades ago. Long standing family-owned businesses such as Rawlins Gas Station, Misake’s, Friendly Market and Take’s still thrive.
One of the longest-running businesses, Take’s, has been passed on for three generations. On a regular day, it is possible to visit the traditional hardware store and see Doris Kanemitsu, the original owner’s wife, smiling and greeting customers, while her son, Ralph Kanemitsu, helps customers find screws and bolts.
Doris’ grandson, Garrick Kanemitsu, is in the office making important phone calls. Garrick’s wife, Maricel Kanemitsu, has worked in the store for 16 years. She is behind the cash register ringing up sales, as her adorable and inquisitive infant daughter, Aiko, scans with her almond-shaped eyes every customer entering the store.
The traditional store used to operate out of Ala Malama Street, and has been a part of Molokai’s culture for 55 years. When Doris’ husband, Takio Kanemitsu, first opened his business, it used to be a simple hardware store, about 25 by 30 feet wide. The store was called Kanemitsu. But Doris the name created a problem because there was already a Kanemitsu Bakery across the street.
“Everybody called my husband Take,” Doris said. “So we decided to change the name to Take’s.”
Over the years, the store kept expanding. After 54 years in the same location Take’s store finally moved at the end of 2007. It is now on Maluolu Place, on property owned by the Kanemitsu family.
Ralph, whose close friends call Take Take, said that business has been better since moving. The new location offers better parking and a bigger, brand new warehouse. Doris, with an everlasting smile stamped on her face, said the “customers are happy.”
How does a small, family-owned business thrive so well on Molokai? “It’s tough,” Ralph said.
“In the early days there were just about two stores,” Ralph said. Now there are several stores that sell hardware, but the Kanemitsu family is far from being discouraged. Their business is doing well.
Maricel said the store has been opened for so long, that they have lots of loyal customers.
Affecting most businesses on Molokai are high shipping costs. Ralph said it costs about $6 a cubic foot for shipping.
Ralph thanked Molokai’s population for fighting to keep development at bay. A small population such as Molokai’s does not lure larger stores that could potentially drive the small guys out of business.
Ralph may be right, but families like his are also largely responsible for keeping the island the way it has been for generations.
The Kanemitsu family would like to thank their dearest customers, and all community members who have helped the family business over the past years: Grandma Doris Kanemitsu, Uncle Jimmy Duvauchelle, Uncle Ted Kanemitsu and Auntie Fern, Eve Kanemitsu, Max and Nicole Kanemitsu-Toa, the Ragonton family: Felipe, Teresita, Mely, Leonard, Auntie Perlita and Rommel. Also Alex and Marlyn Salazar, Frank Maniago, Lester Keanini, Elroy Molena, Dedric Manaba, Uncle Sam Thompson, Pat Ware, Carlito Salazar, Kimmy, Joanna and Mayrose, AJ, Albert Madela, Cello Dudoit, Puna Domingo, David Bush, and Pastor Kirk.