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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, October 24, 2004

Small businesses playing large role in Kaimuki

 •  Pay a visit to Kaimuki

By Chris Oliver
Advertiser Travel Writer

Personal service and goods hard to find elsewhere have kept Kaimuki a thriving area for scores of small businesses on and off Wai'alae Avenue for decades.

Movie Museum owner Dwight Damon, left, and members Hillary Mock and Merle Goodell look through the vast collection of films. The museum shows movies four days a week and has many titles for rent.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Kaimuki Dry Goods on 10th Avenue, Harry's Music Store on Wai'alae Avenue, Tam's Shoe Repair on 12th Avenue and the Crack Seed Store on Koko Head Avenue, have been fixtures in the area. And there's the more unusual, too.

Calibrating a 500-pound scale is all in a day's work for Yuni Shiramizu, owner of Young Scale Co., 3392 Wai'alae Ave. Her customers range from calorie-counting foodies to doctors, schools and waste-management companies.

Shiramizu began working for Jack Young as a bookkeeper in the 1980s, eventually buying the business from him in 1991. Since then, business has doubled. Young Scale Co. sells scales that measure ounces, used by jewelers, platforms for weighing trucks used by waste-management companies and everything in between.

"The biggest change has been the shift from mechanical to digital machines," Shiramizu said. Grasping the technical language and conducting business in the male-dominated weighing-machine world were two challenges Shiramizu also met, balancing them with the personal service she and her employees take pride in at the corner shop.

Patty Yamasaki Sugai in her shop, Montsuki, in Kaimuki. Sugai refashions authentic kimono and obi into elegant updated outfits. "Shopping in Kaimuki is much more personal than a mall," she says.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

"Many times, the customer has no idea what kind of scale they need,"she said. "We advise them, and this helps their business grow. Scales must be accurate and meet their requirements; it's the difference between businesses making and losing money."

Outside Young Scale Co., Kip Lutu was handing out fliers to promote a new city bus route set to replace the Kaimuki trolley this month. Losing the trolley which brought visitors from Waikiki has been an issue for many store owners, but Lutu, a city bus driver for 25 years, said the new bus route will be an improvement.

"The Kaimuki trolley only stopped at certain stops; TheBus, a new Route 303, will stop at all the bus stops," he said. "Better service for shoppers."

Shoppers like Angela Stone, from Manhattan Beach, Calif., on her way to Montsuki at 1148 Koko Head Ave., where Patty Yamasaki Sugai refashions authentic kimono and obi into elegant updated outfits. Like many of Sugai's customers who know the store only through word of mouth, Stone heard about it after meeting someone who was wearing one of Montsuki's designs.

Large, elaborately decorated scales decorate the front window of the Young Scale Co. on Wai'alae Avenue in Kaimuki.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Sugai says she moved her business in 1991 from Kaka'ako to Kaimuki just as the neighborhood began changing. "The sleazy places disappeared," Sugai said ... "it began rejuvenating, yet still has a small-town feel.

"Shopping in Kaimuki is much more personal than a mall. We try harder. New things are happening, we get lots of tourists from Waikiki. We're all hoping the (Kaimuki) trolley will come back after the elections!"

Judy Joseph and Susan Sanger opened Pzazz, 3057 Wai'alae Ave., a designer consignment store, three years ago, moving the business from Kalakaua Avenue and definitely preferring the new location.

"It's like night and day, and we feel we fit right in to the community," Joseph said. As well as day-to-day running of the store, Joseph teaches classes to high school seniors at nearby Sacred Hearts Academy.

"I discuss with the girls what to wear for college and job interviews and also for prom, and it's really fun. I talk to them about raising the bar with clothes and what kind of impression they are making by what they wear," Joseph said.

Customers also can make a reservation to have lunch at the store, a gourmet meal cooked by chef Janice Onaka, whereby a visit to Pzazz becomes an event with advice on clothes discussed over tomato bruschetta and fresh lemon tart.

While many neighborhood movie screens have caved to the pressure of 12- and 16-plex movie theaters, Kaimuki's Movie Museum, 3566 Harding Ave., reels out movies four days a week and has more than 8,000 VHS and 3,500 DVD titles for rent to members.

"Many movies were lost in the shift from VHS to DVD," said owner Dwight Damon who took over the museum in 1991. "VHS is not a dead form, and we have the titles here, the best collection on the island."

The theater's 9-by-10-foot movie screen, with 19 stuffed recliner seats, is open Thursdays though Mondays with up to four showings a day. "Hollywood often makes mistakes when they remake classic movies," Damon said. "One of our missions is to let them know that we (film buffs) are paying attention. We're watching what they do."

Tickets are $5; members, $4.