A fourth-generation member of Hana's iconic Hasegawa General Store that soon will be rebuilt at the site of a fire that claimed the storied establishment years ago was honored Saturday with the Tiny Malaikini Mea Kokua Award, the community's recognition for public service.
"For his extraordinary dedication and service to the Hana community via his leadership over many years of Hana's weeklong Festivals of Aloha and through the generosity and service he provides as general manager of Hasegawa General Store, the people of Hana gratefully acknowledge and honor Neil Hasegawa as the recipient of the Tiny Malaikini Mea Kokua Award," the koa-framed certificate said.
Hasegawa received the Malaikini award from Maydoria, daughter of Malaikini, and presented by Lynette Malaikini, his wife, and Sage, a grandson, at the conclusion of Hana's Aloha Festivals celebration.
The Tiny Malaikini Mea Kokua Award is presented to Neil Hasegawa, fourth-generation member of the Hasegawa General Store family, by Lynette Malaikini, the award namesake’s wife.
KAIHU HALL photo
"That's the only award for people volunteering," said Hasegawa on Monday. "It was an honor, and it was a surprise."
He was chosen for the award because of his 10 years of service, first as treasurer and for the last five years as co-chairman, of the Hana Festivals of Aloha weeklong celebrations, a news release about the award said. Other factors included the family tradition of service to the people of Hana since the store opened 102 years ago in 1910 by the honoree's great-grandfather, Shoichi, and great-granduncle Saburo.
The store provides donations to community and fundraising events and support to community businesses, including the food court and farmers market at the site of the old Hasegawa General Store, which burned down in 1990.
He also has served on the Hana Citizens Advisory Committee that updated the Hana Community Plan in the early 1990s and continues to speak before boards and commissions on issues important to Hana, the news release said.
Hasegawa, whose parents are Harry and Nita Hasegawa, also offers advice and assistance to Hana residents interested in starting small businesses and is supportive of youth sports, including soccer.
The store is an iconic Hana stopping place that was immortalized by Paul Weston's "Hasegawa General Store," released in 1963. The lyrics say:
"You've gotta walk very slowly
As your tour begins
Through those pineapples, cereals and bobby pins
Spears and goggles and swimming fins . . .
Now if you want to lama lama
They've got kerosene
If you want to lomi lomi
They've got rubbing cream
Some guava jelly that's just supreme . . .
They've got kukui nuts
Assorted cold cuts
And papaya plants
A shiny koa calabash
To catch your eye
When your throat gets dry . . .
You just name it
They've got it there
At the Hasegawa General Store."
In an effort to restore the store to its former glory, Hasegawa says ground will be broken by the end of the year on a new store on its old site. He has all the permits and hopes to have the 5,000-square-foot building completed by next fall or the beginning of 2014, he said.
The new store will be four times as large as the old store and twice as large as the current "temporary permanent" structure, the old theater building across the street, occupied since the fire.
The effort is both "exciting" and "scary" because of the large loan, Hasegawa said, adding that the reconstruction was something he felt he had to do.
In all aspects, the new store will not fit Weston's description of the old store, but Hasegawa is cognizant of the history and culture of behind the shopping place.
"There is fine line between being modern and having the old flavor of the old stores," he said.
The new store will be more organized and have a hardware section but the family is making an effort to make the store "more like a museum" and "to connect the store to the past," he said. There will be pictures throughout the store with old-timers able to say "Oh, I remember that" and newcomers who may ask "who is that," which may open up discussions on the long history of the store and the community, he said.
And in keeping with the old store and the song, Hasegawa said it will carry "unique items you can get hardly anywhere else."
In addition to the certificate, Hasegawa's name will be placed on a perpetual trophy that hangs below a painting of Malaikini in the Hana Cultural Center.
Established in 1992, the Malaikini Award is given annually to the person who has given most selflessly for the betterment of the Hana community, the news release about the award said. Simultaneously, the award honors the memory of Viewed Paniani "Tiny" Malaikini, a much beloved Hawaiian man whose life embodied aloha and kokua.
* Lee Imada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.