Maui Business

Heartbreaking: Mele Ukulele to close its longtime Wailuku flagship store

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Mele Ukulele’s flagship store in Wailuku is closing at the end of this month after the property near the Wailuku bridge was sold to a Mainland owner.

After 27 years at the entrance to downtown Wailuku, Mele Ukulele will close its flagship store following the sale of its location near Wailuku bridge to a mainland owner.

Shutting the store’s doors on May 30 “breaks my heart,” said co-owner Cheryl Rock, who opened the Wailuku store with husband Mike Rock in 1997 and began the business with him creating instruments from scratch.

“This place is very special, very dear to my heart,” she said. “I raised my kids here.”

Mele Ukulele has two other locations: at the Shops at Wailea and 98 Hāna Highway in Pāʻia. They will remain open, but those stores don’t have the same homespun vibe as the Wailuku location, Cheryl Rock said.


“This is where the locals come,” she said. “They hang loose, kanikapila (jam) and talk story. This is where it happens. It’s just a real laid-back fun place, a music place.”

Mele Ukulele began 30 years ago with owners Mike and Cheryl Rock making ʻukulele instruments in their garage. They waited for the former laundromat, located near the iconic Wailuku bridge, to become available for their budding ʻukulele business.

The store’s closing will be marked with a fond aloha event from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, with a music, food, games and prizes at Mele Ukulele, located at 1750 Kaʻahumanu Ave. The event will feature Arlie-Avery Asiu, a three-time Nā Hōkū Hanohano Awards finalist for ʻUkulele Album of the Year. The event also will include the Mele Ukulele ensemble and many surprise guests.

Mele Ukulele’s flagship store in Wailuku is closing at the end of this month. PC: Brian Perry

Asiu said he only plays instruments by Mele Ukulele because he loves their craftsmanship and tone.


Cheryl Rock said a big part of Mele Ukulele’s mission has been to create high-quality instruments “at a price point locals can afford.”

She said Mele Ukulele uses a two-step process of making after finding a luthiery (string-instrument manufacturing) establishment in the Philippines and Mexico that had been building quality fretted instruments, including Spanish-style guitars, for many years.

A screenshot from Mele Ukulele’s website shows examples of the craftsmanship of its high-quality wood ʻukulele.

Partial assembly of the instruments (including detailed, high-quality inlay work) is done overseas, with final assembly and quality control done on Maui, Cheryl Rock said, adding that Mele Ukulele has demanding standards of precision and tone quality.

Mele Ukulele instruments are made of tropical woods such as koa and mahogany, according to its website. The high-quality woods “provide the resonance and beauty that makes Mele ʻukuleles so special.”


The most valuable and sought-after Hawaiian built instruments are made of koa wood, once known as “Hawaiian mahogany.” Genuine koa is only found in Hawaiʻi and is becoming rare and expensive.

“Our koa ʻukuleles, as well as having excellent sound qualities, are living works of nature’s art, each unique, with its beautiful ripples of color in the koa’s grain. Mahogany, when properly selected and cured, makes for excellent ʻukuleles with great sound,” the website says.

For more information, visit

Brian Perry
Brian Perry worked as a staff writer and editor at The Maui News from 1990 to 2018. Before that, he was a reporter at the Pacific Daily News in Agana, Guam. From 2019 to 2022, he was director of communications in the Office of the Mayor.
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