Is Maui’s landmark Fukushima Store closing for good? Only time will tell, owner says
December 14, 2022, 6:00 AM HST
* Updated December 16, 4:57 AM
HAʻIKŪ — Landmark Fukushima Store in Haʻikū was busy with a steady flow of customers at lunchtime Tuesday.
Some ordered one hot dog; others got two; one customer got seven. Many said it was their “last Fukushima hot dog.”
The longtime mom-and-pop grocery store — which carries a small selection of household goods, packaged foods and cold drinks — is known for its hot dog. A signature Fukushima hot dog is red and topped with mayo, mustard, ketchup, minced onions and a pickle spear.
“The pickle makes it,” customer Myles Mochizuki of Wailuku said Tuesday. “The dill pickle inside, the slice, that kind of makes it unique. You have relish and all that — but the slice of pickle, that’s the best.”
Whether Fukushima’s famous hot dogs will be available after the holidays remains uncertain, though.
Fukushima Store owner George Fukushima, whose parents started the store more than a half century ago in Haʻikū, said he is not doing media interviews. He reluctantly agreed to a brief statement.
“On Dec. 23, we will close for the holidays,” Fukushima told Maui Now on Tuesday. “We will decide after that.”
When asked about reports of the store closing for good, he said no one verified with him.
“That’s why I don’t like the Internet,” Fukushima said from his garage, as his wife, Alice, worked nearby. “The first rumor goes out and everybody believes it.”
Rumors swirled that the historic spot was closing in 2018, then again in 2020, which sparked a frenzy of people seeking out Fukushima Store clothing, hot dogs and everything in between. Recent social media posts about Fukushima closing for good Dec. 23 spurred a flurry of traffic this week.
Customer Koa Plauche, who grew up in Haʻikū and often walked to the store to get AriZona Iced Tea and one or two hot dogs, said he was sad when he heard the store was closing.
“I was pretty heartbroken — it’s the last local thing that is here,” he said Tuesday.
Lifelong Haʻikū resident Ray Kepani and his wife, Shirley, who are Fukushima regulars, said they don’t think the store is closing for good.
“I think it’s just rumors,” Ray Kepani said Tuesday in the parking lot.
Ray Kepani, 60, said he’s been going to Fukushima Store since he was 7 years old. It was the after-school pit stop for hot dogs and soda.
He remembers Fukushima Store being at the old Mukai store, across from St. Rita’s Church, then next to the Haʻikū Post Office, and finally at its current location, 815 Haʻikū Road.
Ray Kepani said Fukushima Store represents more than just good hot dogs. It symbolizes a time when the community was tight-knit and neighbors looked out for one another.
“From when I was a young boy, (George’s) mom and dad knew every child in this whole neighborhood. And our parents. So if you naughty, or if you get caught stealing, our parents going find out — because they know our parents. That’s how well-known Fukushima is in Haʻikū. They’re well respected, too,” Ray Kepani said.
He said George’s parents were “kind people” who treated everybody equally, no matter race or background.
Shirley Kepani, whose niece was a Fukushima Store manager once, said the Fukushimas have always cared about hiring local people from the area and providing jobs.
Not to mention, there’s nothing like a Fukushima hot dog, the two added. Their family in Lahaina drives all the way to Haʻikū just for Fukushima Store.
“You can’t beat a Fukushima hot dog, that’s all I can say,” Ray Kepani said.