For nearly 30 years, Sunrise Country Market filled the bellies and quenched the thirst of tourists and mountain bike riders who were heading up and down Haleakala.
But after Wednesday, tourists and a handful of residents will need to go elsewhere for their sandwiches, wraps, drinks, protea and made-on-Maui souvenirs because the store along Haleakala Highway will close its doors. The fate of the less than 3-acre farm nearby, which is still producing a small amount of protea will be determined later.
"It was never meant to be permanent, so after 30 years, I think it's a good run," said John Hirashima, one of the property owners of the quaint country market.
Though melancholy over the impending closure of their Kula store, Sunrise Country Market staffers Rose Wood (from left), Henrietta Chong, Manager Kathryn Smith and Ruth Goodfellow share a laugh Friday.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Hirashima said that the store was established in 1983 to supplement the family's nearby flower farm business while it went through some tough times.
"It's done exactly what it's meant to do," he said.
Henrietta Chong, a store employee for 20 years, will leave with a heavy heart.
"It's really sad," she said, noting this is another mom-and-pop shop that will fade.
Chong said her customers, which range from tour bus drivers to bike tour guides,
are wondering where they are going to take their customers who grab a bite to eat and sit on the store's picnic tables outside.
" 'Where are we going to go? What are we going to do?' " Chong said she's been asked.
"We have the same bus drivers coming all the time," she added.
"This is a really quiet place. It's country, and it's peaceful up here. It's just a peaceful place to be."
Phil Feliciano, owner of Cruiser Phil's Volcano Riders, a bike tour company, said that he will miss the place.
"I'm sad, I'm really sad that the whole thing is going away."
Feliciano said that his company periodically stopped at the market and farm, where his customers could walk through the protea farm and learn about the flowers as well as get a drink or bite to eat.
Hirashima said he and his wife, Marilynn, felt it was time to take life easier, now that John Hirashima is 69.
Actually, the Hirashimas started to pull back on their business responsibilities eight years ago when they entered into a management agreement with Doug and Kathryn Smith, who have been managing the operation. Hirashima said both they and the Smiths decided to end the store's run.
Hirashima said he also decided to close at the store at the end of June because it's the end of the county's fiscal year and by next month he would need to go back to the county for a special use permit and a conditional use permit because the area is not zoned for their business.
Hirashima said the Maui Planning Commission and County Council have been very supportive of their business and getting permits was not a factor in their decision to close.
Hirashima recalls that establishing the 1,000-square-foot store in 1983 worked out well because they could sell their protea at the store.
He said the 1990s was the peak of his flower business because using mail orders for protea gift boxes was a hit.
John Hirashima ran the farm and oversaw the packing and shipping of proteas while Marilynn ran the store and flower sales.
After the sales of protea gift boxes peaked in the 1990s, John Hirashima said it slowed down.
And even before they let go of managing the store and farm, Hirashima stopped planting his protea.
The property used to belong to his parents, but now it belongs to Hirashima and his siblings.
The Hirashimas will still keep busy as active members of the Kula community and St. John's Episcopal Church.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.