If you’ve ever traveled the Big Island’s Hamakua coastline, you’ve certainly passed by, or maybe even visited the Pa’auilo Store.
A third generation run family business that started shortly after World War II.
“When my grandfather started back in the 40s and going forward, the community was very dependent upon the store, for us, for their needs” said Miles Saito. “The store then sold everything from diapers to caskets. Everything the community needed was offered in the store.”
But as the business grew, the focus turned to food. The luxury resort boom of the 80s on the Kohala coast of Hawaii Island proved to be their bread and butter.
“The Hilton, which was the Hyatt back then, was the first site for the lunch wagon in the mid-80s,” said Saito. “From there, exponentially, the food side of it took off and grew.”
Everything they served was prepared and delivered from the original Pa’auilo Store. Until 10 years ago, when showing signs of old age, it was torn down. The new store, which stands just footsteps away from the still empty space, is much smaller with no space to cook.
“So we have this store in Pa’auilo for convenience and then we have the kitchen in Waimea now which is a little bit more central to the coast,” said Saito.
Saito says it is from there they produce hundreds of bentos and other good meals every day for, schools, businesses, and regular customers, including those down in Paauilo. But you better get there early or else the shelves where the bentos normally sit will be empty.
“It’s like that every day, so we’re very grateful for the support we have in the community thankful for that,” said Saito.
His regular customers are equally thankful.
“I live right behind the store here,” said Paauilo resident Daniel Tilton. “It’s beautiful. I come here every day for lunch usually one in the area. You can’t beat it, country store and I get this little bento too!”
“It’s hard to get small businesses surviving these days” says Paauilo resident Troy Franco. “But lucky for this store I can come get a cool refreshment whenever I like.”
Saito says the company’s enduring success is based on his grand father’s simple beliefs.Serve your community and always try to make a positive difference
“We learn from the example and the traditions that we hold is the traditions the past generations held,” said Saito.
The question now, is what will the next generation do? Between Saito, his brother and his sister there are 8 children, but so far there in no interest in carrying on the family tradition.
“You need to have a passion for it,” said Saito. “If you’re doing it for money, money is the result of what we do. But that’s not the reason. What we do, the reason is more important, the why is more important”.
And he says if the children do chose another path, he’ll be fine with it. As long as they honor their grandfather, and do good by their community.