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ISLAND HISTORY: A brief history of Kaua‘i’s Kealia Store

In 1887, Theo H. Davies & Co. opened a general merchandise store at Kealia and appointed George Tweedie as its storekeeper.

It was reported later that year that people would drive 10 or 12 miles to procure goods at the store.

Then in 1889, Makee Sugar Co. purchased the store from Davies.

Worth mentioning is the news that a thief broke into Kealia Store on Sept. 9, 1891, and stole four watches and some change, but was never caught.

By 1911, Kealia Store had become one the largest stores on Kaua‘i under the management of congenial Johnny Neal.

The year 1914 saw Gaylord Parke Wilcox at the helm of both Makee Sugar Co. and Kealia Store.

But, Joaquin de Souza, assistant store manager and later manager, actually handled much of the store work.

At that time, Kealia Store was run on a strictly cash basis, while doing business primarily with Makee Sugar Co. laborers and independent homesteaders who grew sugarcane on contract for Makee Sugar Co.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Kealia Store, then managed by William Grote, was reconstructed and expanded.

Besides selling general merchandise, it also milled corn for farmers and sold automobile tires and Kelvinator refrigerators.

Interestingly, on Saturday, Aug. 8, 1931, the Buddhist temple grounds in nearby Kealia Camp was crowded with nearly 4,000 spectators celebrating Bon dances.

Kealia Store was still in business in 1934, the year Lihu‘e Plantation absorbed and dissolved Makee Sugar Co.

Other employees of Kealia Store included John Mendes, an employee of 45 years; Harry Yamaguchi, another of its managers, and Trinidad Rames, a checking clerk.

During the early 1960s, Julie Beralas of Lihu‘e Camp A, assisted by her eldest daughter, Ginger Beralas (my wife), and her niece, Camellia Ditch, earned extra income by doing laundry for five single Filipino men who worked for Lihu‘e Plantation.

One of the men was Tata Nicholas, whose old plantation house was at Kealia Camp.

Old-timers may also recall the Kealia Dispensary that closed in 1965.

In 1967, 80 years after it opened, Lihu‘e Plantation closed Kealia Store, along with its Hanama‘ulu and Koloa stores.
Source: The Garden Island

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