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Owners of Rodeo General Store looking to sell

They are hoping to hand off the torch to a new owner/operator

Rodeo General Store staffer Barb Marsh chats with a customer Wednesday in Makawao. Marsh said she has worked at the store for nearly seven years. “I like the customers,” she said. “They’re all fun. They usually have something to say. And we get to meet a lot of tourists.” One of Marsh’s duties is to deliver the punchline to the Daily Dad Joke posted in the store’s entry. Wednesday’s joke was, “Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?” “Because he had no guts,” Marsh said. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

The current owners of the four-decade-old Rodeo General Store, a fixture on Baldwin Avenue across the street from T. Komoda Store and Bakery in Makawao, are looking to pass the torch to a new owner.

Darren Jones with partners Dean Sturman, Paul Lamparelli and Michael Fisher became the owners of the popular store in 2008.

“We’ve been there over 12 years, and we’ve felt that as the owners of that store, we’ve felt like caretakers, and at some point we would be passing it on anyway, and we’re just at that point,” said Jones, who also runs Alive & Well and Hanzawa’s Variety Store.

“We’ve loved being a part of that community,” he said. “Makawao is a beautiful town, we’ve enjoyed having different local customers and tourists every day, and we’ve loved the support and people we got to serve every day, and we’ve certainly appreciated being there.”

Located in the historic paniolo town at 3661 Baldwin Ave., the neighborhood grocery store loved by locals and tourists alike offers a selection of frozen foods, deli products, to-go meals, salads and gelato, as well as a full selection of beer, wine and liquor.

Established in 1979 and featuring a wide array of merchandise that ranges from prepared food and cold beverages to canned tuna and toiletries, Rodeo General Store has become a mainstay on Baldwin Avenue.

The Makawao History Museum walking tour pamphlet says that Yoshizu Fish Market opened in 1927 at the site and was part of Takeshi and Miki Yoshizu’s home. The site became a meat market during World War II, and later became a general store called Yoshizu Market.

In 1979, Rodeo General Store was born.

“It’s been a busy store and an important place for a lot of locals and tourists to stop in for great food,” Jones said Wednesday. “We just want to thank our employees and customers and supporters through all these years, and we look forward to passing the torch on to the next qualified person and team that will take Rodeo through the next decade.”

Realtor and businessman Michael Capuano said Tuesday that the newly remodeled 1,500-square-foot Rodeo General Store is being listed on MauiBusinesses.com for $150,000 for a three-year lease with a down payment of $30,000, with the owner willing to finance the listing price. The price includes inventory, a full liquor license, equipment, and employees if desired.

Rent and utilities expenses were not disclosed.

The current owners of the 40-year-old Rodeo General Store in Makawao have put the store on the market. It occupies the old Yoshizu Market spot on Baldwin Avenue, across from Komoda bakery.

The fee owner of 1.31 acre site, which includes Rodeo General Store, is G R Bluefrer Family Limited Partnership, which lists Barbara Tam of Boulder, Colo., as a mailing address, according to county property tax records.

“We want to keep the store moving, which is why we have a low purchase price, so we can get out of there, and someone else can get in there pretty affordably,” Jones added.

Capuano noted that the value is in the store’s liquor license, considering that there are only three businesses in the area with a license and two of them are full licenses.

Sales in 2018 totaled about $3 million and have seen a slight decline since last year, he said.

Makawao town has slowed down some from being a buzzing place with social eateries and shops to a quiet strip trying to compete with larger businesses like Target and Costco, Jones said.

“It’s kind of sad but true. The community’s needs have changed somewhat these last few years, with the bigger boxed stores carrying more organic food and offering very good value every day, and it’s hard to compete with some of them,” he said. “So we’ve had to switch up and put more focus on our food service and less emphasis on selling cereal and pasta and things like that.

“We’ve been trying to switch over the inventory to what people need more these days, like faster grab-and-go type of thing.”

Despite the business changes, the iconic Rodeo General Store sits in the heart of the community and continues to attract its loyal customers. If the new buyer has “a great plan, I think they will be very successful there,” Jones said.

Capuano also suggested that the new owner keep the space as “the good old general store” and possibly turn it into an owner-operator business, where the new owner would handle daily store operations.

In the past 30 days, the Rodeo General Store has been shown to prospective buyers five times, he said.

“It’s not an easy store to run, there’s a lot of moving parts, we offer a lot of different services there, so someone with experience in food service or convenience store-type settings, that would be ideal,” Jones said. “But we’re also willing to train the new owner with things as much as needed to get them on their feet and give them the best chance for success.”

In the meantime, the Rodeo General Store will remain open during its usual business hours of 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.

“We’re going to miss Makawao and running that great store and certainly all of the beautiful faces,” Jones said. “We encourage folks to come by and have another look at Rodeo and check out some of the new stuff we’re offering, and come to say hi and thank you or whatever it may be.”

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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