Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 19, 2001

A sad time for Happy Valley folks as cafe burns

By Christie Wilson
Neighbor Island Editor

WAILUKU, Maui — A fire yesterday gutted a Happy Valley landmark that lived many lives in the small Wailuku community alongside 'Iao Stream.

The Happy Valley Cafe was gutted by fire early yesterday. The building previously housed Sam Sato's noodle house.

Christie Wilson • The Honolulu Advertiser

Old-timers recall that the unimposing wood-and-tin structure on North Market Street was once a Chinese restaurant, then a rowdy bar with a jukebox that played late into the night. It served at one time as an office supply business and again as a bar, then a series of humble restaurants.

Most on Maui know it as the former home of Sam Sato's famed noodle house, which moved in 1993 to updated quarters in The Millyard after 20 years in the former plantation town.

Its present occupant was the homestyle Happy Valley Cafe, which served breakfast and lunch daily.

Bad wiring is suspected in the 4:58 a.m. fire, which started in the kitchen. Damage is estimated at $200,000.

Happy Valley Cafe owners Paul and Freda Connelly said they thought someone was playing a joke on them when they got a call at their Pa'ia home about the fire. They raced down to find their 2-year-old business in ruins.

Fire inspector Leo Domingo examines the site of what old-timers remember as a chop-suey house, a raucous bar, an office supplier, another bar and a series of eateries.

Christie Wilson • The Honolulu Advertiser

Their friends at Paipala Church dropped by throughout the day to help clean up and remove dishes and other items that could be salvaged. Still-cold meat from the freezer was given away.

The pre-World War II building is still owned by members of the Sato family, Charles Toma and his wife, Lynne Sato Toma. "It's a landmark here. It's a shame," said Charles Toma as he visited the burned-out structure yesterday. "Luckily no one was hurt."

Across the street at the Banana Bungalow hostel, 20 to 30 guests were asleep when the fire erupted. "Smoke was everywhere and then the whole roof caught on fire," said bungalow worker Naomi Hoffman.

The cafe will be missed by the entire community, she said.