Local community brings aloha to longtime favorite Palace Saimin


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Just last week, a longtime saimin spot in Kalihi was hanging on by a thread because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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Now, Palace Saimin says that it’s been closing up early for the day because business has actually been so good–all thanks to a little aloha from the community.

The restaurant has been in business since 1946, serving Hawaii saimin and beef barbecue sticks.

The family-owned business was nearly put out of business after Honolulu’s second stay-at-home order went into effect.

“When the second shutdown came, we were really worried this time it got even slower than before the second time around,” said Palace Saimin co-owner Susan Nakagawa.

On Wednesday night, Sept. 16, KHON2’s Lauren Day featured the restaurant and its fight to survive.

Since that story aired, “Our phone has been ringing nonstop,” said Nakagawa. “We haven’t been able to answer all of the phone calls and customers walking in.”

“People have been waiting outside in lines and they’ve been calling like crazy,” Nakagawa’s daughter Nicole said.

The little eatery became so busy that Nagakawa called in for back up–her grandmother, 85-year-old Sesuko Arakaki, who used to run the shop back in the ’80s.

“My grandma is the fastest so she can make everything really fast,” Nicole Nakagawa revealed.

Just like how Palace Saimin was passed down from mother to daughter, regulars say that they want the experience to be turned over to the next generation.

“Especially the places that we’ve been to all of the time,” said customer Leigh Fukumoto. “You don’t want the places that you used to go to as a kid to close down. The next generation, I want my kids to be able to enjoy those places as well.”

And a bonus–an increase in business means more opportunities for work.

“We’ve been bringing in extra staffing to help us with our prep,” said Susan Nakagawa.

In a survey by the National Restaurant Association last week, it predicted that 60-percent of Hawaii’s restaurants will be forced to close in the pandemic. But Palace Saimin is just one example of how we can contribute to keeping our favorite businesses alive.

“Thank you so much. It’s been really helpful and just the whole community has made such a big impact on a small business,” said Nicole Nakagawa.

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