Once, the main road across Kula ran through Waiakoa (water used by the warrior). For decades, the road was dirt and cinders. Today, it's called Lower Kula Road and it's paved. It's never been a thriving commercial center, but it was enough for the neighborhood and for nearby farmers and ranchers.
Kula Road was bypassed by a new highway, one of several Maui highways politically engineered by then Territorial and state House Speaker Elmer F. Cravalho, who went on to become mayor of Maui County. That may have cut into customers at Calasa Service Station, Morihara Store and Cafe 808's predecessors, but the "everyone knows your name" quality and convenience survived.
The village includes a plantation-styled gymnasium where Cravalho worked as a caretaker in 1954 between his job as a schoolteacher and becoming a representative in the Legislature. There's a veterinary clinic in a building constructed by the Kula Credit Union and a glass-blowing studio.
Down the road is Holy Ghost Church and two community centers, the new one plainly visible and the old one nestled higher up in the trees. A little farther down is Haleakala Waldorf School.
The village always has been largely residential. The name survived because it was a good answer for the question "Where in Kula?"
Keeping a business going in a village isn't easy.
Morihara Store, which once also housed the Kula Post Office, often has trouble recruiting long-term employees. Recently, its office was torched. The ohanalike building behind the store was destroyed. The 3 a.m. fire was hot enough to char the back of the store, which is operating as usual.
The slowdown in construction cut into the store's business. Nail-benders often stopped by for a hot dog, chili, strong coffee and pastries. The closure of illegal bed-and-breakfast operations also reduced the flow of customers. Part of the slack has been taken up by residents of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands' Waiohuli subdivision.
Calasa station and repair shop has gone through a series of operators. It's closed. The latest operator fell victim to rising gasoline prices. He didn't have the thousands of dollars in cash needed to fill his tanks.
In addition to Morihara Store, Cafe 808 was a kind of community center. Customers tended to be regulars who knew each other. Reasonably priced plate lunches were a specialty. (I define plate lunch as a meal that includes macaroni salad spiced with an overflow of brown gravy.) The place also served mountains of french fries and hamburgers touted by customers as among the best on the island, along with loco moco, beef stew, fish and other local favorites. Some months ago, the restaurant began serving slabs of prime rib on Friday and Saturday nights.
Last month, a handwritten menu hanging from the ceiling was replaced by a backlit, factory-made bill of fare. Much neater, but it seemed to erode the down-home flavor.
Cafe 808 had a funky collection of tables - some big enough for large families - and even one picnic table. Customers ordered at the counter, found a seat and were served by mostly young women. If the counter woman didn't recognize the customer - a rarity - a name was put on the order ticket so she'd know where to deliver the paper plates of food.
This week, regulars were disappointed. All day, cars would drive by and pause. Would-be customers would read a banner saying "Closed. Lost our lease" and have to find another place to eat. Morihara Store did a land-office business in hot dogs and chili.
This week, the banner was replaced by a sign: "Cafe 808. Catering orders still welcome." An email address was listed as the way "to place your orders! Follow us to our new location. Mahalo for your patronage. We'll see you soon!" There was no address for the "new location," and there were those who wondered if the catering business kitchen was approved by the state Department of Health.
A harder-to-see sign was posted inside the tinted plate-glass window on the gymnasium side of the building: "Property for Sale." It listed a Honolulu Realtor and the email address of the local owner, who apparently had grown weary of dealing with leaseholders.
I may have to start making my own breakfast, lunch and dinner.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.