Tenants and Waikiki residents bid aloha to King’s Village

Local News

After nearly a half century, King’s Village in Waikiki has closed its gates.  

The unique shopping center was built in 1972 on the corners of Kaiulani Avenue, Prince Edward Street and Koa Avenue.  

Many businesses have come and gone over the years but the owners of Rock Island Café have been there from the beginning.

“King’s Village has been part of my life since I was a little kid,” said Michael Gelfo, owner of Rock Island Café.

“My dad opened one of his first shops right upstairs and we’ve bene in this spot down here for 20 years now, and this is all that’s left,” he said while pointing to the empty building. 

Several buildings on the block will be demolished to make way for a high rise. 

“It’s really the end of an era, there were a lot of special things that happened here,” he said.

He recalls the changing of the guard ceremony that would happen daily in front of his restaurant. 

Others remember coming to Burger King late night for a quick and cheap meal. 

“I’d get off around 10-10:30 p.m. and the Burger King was always busy,” said Waikiki resident and activist David Moskowitz.

The Waikiki neighborhood board told KHON2 that construction for the new Hilton Grand Vacation is set to begin in April 2019. 

Regulars of King’s Village hope certain items can be salvaged before Hilton breaks ground. 

“There’s a little area in the center called celebrity courtyard where celebrities from the 70s and 80s put their handprints in the cement just like they did on Hollywood Boulevard,” Gelfo explains.

Names at Varsity Circle include Don Ho, Dolly Parton and Sam Davis Jr.

“I’m hoping they get to save that area because frankly there’s not much left of Waikiki and it would be nice to save something of the old Waikiki where people will say, ‘Oh, I remember that,’” Moskowitz said. 

The spot has even seen newer local celebrities stop by like Jason Momoa and Bruno Mars. 

Gelfo’s dad told him there’s even a time capsule in the courtyard. Gelfo believes it’s behind an old plaque that reads “King’s Alley.” 

Tenants were asked to have all their items out by midnight on Jan. 31. However, some came by to pack up last minute belongings. 

“I didn’t want to necessarily come down today it’s just depressing and sad to see what’s left or the shell of what’s left of the place,” Gelfo said.

Rock Island Café has moved locations to Kalakaua Ave and McCully Street. 

Gelfo explains most of the restaurants were able to move locations but some of the smaller stores closed up for good.

“I know a couple of the people that were in here were a little bit older, so they just decided to retire,” he explains.

“I think a lot of the small ‘mom and pops’ don’t have anywhere to go, there’s not a lot of space or opportunity for small businesses in Waikiki,” he said.

The new Hilton is expected to be completed in 2022. 

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