By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Catherine E. Toth
Like many folks raised in Kaimuki, Michael Abe moved back to the area 10 years ago. Two years ago, he moved his business there, too.
The 52-year-old attorney and father has seen the neighborhood change a lot, even in the past decade.
"There's a new vitality in Kaimuki," said Abe, chairman of the Kaimuki Neighborhood Board. "There's a lot of rebuilding and more people on the street. ... Sure, we have our share of problems, but there's a great deal of energy here now."
Recent improvements to the century-old neighborhood include wider sidewalks and more landscaping. New restaurants and shops have sprung up, with fixtures such as Harry's Music Store on Wai'alae Avenue and the Crack Seed Store on Koko Head Avenue adding to the mix.
Businesses will take part in today's Celebrate Kaimuki! event, sponsored by the Kaimuki Business and Professional Association, Chaminade University, Saint Louis School and the Greater East Honolulu Community Alliance.
There will be food booths, entertainment, crafts, and prizes and discounts from neighborhood merchants. And guided trolley rides will take folks through the community that has seen its popularity rise as quickly as its property values.
Longtime resident Edison Lum, 54, remembers a more laid-back neighborhood with more grocery stores than trendy eateries, more electric trolleys than metered parking.
"What really draws the people now are the improvements," said Lum, who lives on 13th Avenue. "But it's also the kind of retail that is there. Before the (widened) sidewalks, people would still come."
Back then, Kaimuki was a small community that had just about everything you needed in a two-mile radius, from dry cleaning to shoe repair and barbers. People would shop at the Kaimuki Super Market, watch movies at the Queen Theater, or buy pastries at Kaimuki Bakery. These former town anchors — along with the Thrifty Drug Store, Kress and Ben Franklin — are gone but not forgotten by longtime residents.
It's this mix of old memories and new experiences that makes Kaimuki such a charming neighborhood, Abe said.
"It's a small town in the middle of the city," he said. "It's close to everything. ... Kaimuki is a best-kept secret. Well, it's not a secret anymore."
Reach Catherine E. Toth at firstname.lastname@example.org.