Palace Saimin in business for nearly 75 years fights to survive the pandemic


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Palace Saimin has been known for its affordable, steamy saimin and tasty BBQ beef sticks since 1946.

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“It was around the Palace Theatre, that’s how it got its name. So it was around the intersection of Keeaumoku and King Street,” said owner Scott Nakagawa.

In the early ’60s, Palace Saimin moved to its current location in Kalihi on North King Street.

At max capacity, the restaurant can hold seven tables.

Its small size is what makes Palace Saimin so special.

“One of the greatest values of that place is when people sit down. After games and stuff, they just stay. A lot of them know each other, but even the ones that really don’t, they start talking about the games or the events that happened or what’s going to happen,” Nakagawa said about how the restaurant has become a local gathering palace.

Scott and Susan Nakagawa are the current owners of Palace Saimin.

The couple took the business over from Susan’s mom who bought it from the original owner in the ’80s.

Nakagawa said because of COVID-19, it’s no longer about making money. It’s simply about surviving.

“We definitely are now are working with the thinnest margins we’ve ever had. As long as we can sustain the business, we’re fine with that,” Nakagawa said.

Even when dine-in was allowed on Oahu, Palace Saimin was forced to cut its few tables in half to allow for social distancing.

The restaurant said it is now purely relying on take-out to keep them alive.

“Because of the business model which is a very simple plan, and because of the loyalty of our customers, we feel we have a good chance,” Nakagawa said.

The loyalty of Palace Saimin customers has been shown not just through take-out orders. Many customers help the Nakagawa’s out by filling their cars with boxes that are then used for take-out orders.

“A lot of the value is not just the supplying of the boxes, it’s actually what it does for the morale,” Nakagawa said about how meaningful the box deliveries are.

Nakagawa said it is the support from their customers that is keeping them going.

“But let’s just do what it takes, and as far as the business, you know we will do whatever it takes to keep it there. So once we get back, you know, it will be nice to see everyone’s faces again and have them come in and relax and just enjoy a good time,” Nakagawa said.

The Nakagawas said they are very appreciative of their landlord helping them out in regards to their rent during these tough times.

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