WAILUKU - Nobody has yet written a song about Lanai City's Pine Isle Market, though it has some of the same ambiance of Hana's more famous Hasegawa General Store. But the little store has gotten a unique accolade: It is believed to be the first business from the smaller islands ever to win a statewide award in the annual Small Business Administration Small Business Awards.
Kerry and Cindy Honda will be honored as Family-owned Small Business of the Year at ceremonies April 30 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu.
Longtime Lanai resident and newspaper editor Joana Varawa said it's one of the last places where you can stop and talk story while checking out "without getting stink-eye." And while Pine Isle isn't quite as creatively cluttered as Hasegawa's, "you can buy almost anything there," she said.
Kerry and Cindy Honda stand in the doorway of their Pine Isle Market in Lanai City recently.
JOANA VARAWA photo
Varawa said it's just a pleasant place to shop, and it reflects the values and personality of its owners, who are assisted by daughter Corie, soon to graduate from Lanai High and Elementary School.
The business was started in 1951 by Kerry Honda's father Isamu who worked there almost every day for nearly six decades. He died last year.
Pine Isle is notable for its variety of Japanese specialties, some of which cannot be found any more on Maui. Kerry Honda said his father didn't particularly specialize in Japanese food, he just bought what the customers liked. So Pine Isle also provides Filipino specialties.
Today, you can find more items preferred by newcomers from the Mainland, and the Hondas buy produce from Alberta de Jetley's organic farm, but Mr. Honda said it isn't easy catering to every taste, because his store is so small. He admits it might be a little too crowded.
Running a store on a remote island presents special challenges. When seas prevent barges from entering Kaumalapau Harbor, he sometimes has to accept the expense of flying in milk and other perishables.
He has even flown in rice at times to soothe the anxieties of his customers.
Pine Isle Market has changed over the years, "but it still looks quaint," Kerry Honda said, and, Varawa added, it still has that old-time feel.
Jane Sawyer, the administrator in Hawaii for the Small Business Administration, said she is almost certain that no Lanai or Molokai business has won a state SBA award before.
"I think it is a first, the Hondas have had a good business for generations and have contributed a lot to the community," Sawyer said.
SBA gives awards at both the state and county levels, and another Maui County business was named the county-level winner among family-owned businesses, Bill and Maureen Marrs of Marmac Ace Hardware, also a multigenerational venture.
The 2010 Small Business Person of the Year for the State of Hawaii is Steven Baldridge, president of Baldridge and Associates Structural Engineering.
Brad Albert and Matias Besasso, co-owners of Rising Sun LLC, are Maui County's Small Business Persons of the Year.
The only other state-level winner from Maui County is Leslie Mullens, president and chief strategist at Playbook Consulting Group in Kihei, the Financial Services Champion.
For more information on the SBA Awards, visit www.sba. ov/hi.
* Harry Eagar can be reached at email@example.com.