South of the overpopulated tourist trap, Kailua-Kona, lies an under-appreciated small-town classic known by many as Kainaliu. The town once boasted the beloved Kainaliu Parade that catered to hundreds of Kona residence intrigued with community involvement. Now, after a 30 year hiatus of town events, Kainaliu has become a ghost town of 80 reminiscent residence. Shops that once delighted the spurring economy of Kainaliu have remained closed until the once delighting town would come back to life.
After 18 years of living in Kainaliu, I was lucky enough to witness a spurfull jump in the liveliness of the town on December 20th after a break in the dreading hiatus. The town was brought to life in a town walk that was the first of its kind in three decades. I walked down the known streets of desolate business to find new faces strolling the lit up town. Shops opened for the first time in years, kids dances to the beating music of the town, and grandparents sat in joy of their once again happy town.
At the north side of Kainaliu, right off the Mamalahoa highway, was the perplexing person presence of the Aloha Theater. The theater was brightened not only by the hanging light and blaring traffic lights but also the joyful faces of mid-career actors trying to get their “foot in the door.” A little further south of the theater was the pavement cracking store front of Oshimas, surrounded by the snotty, hair tangled kids playing in-house games. Their movement was fast, but the traffic of sidewalking people were faster.
Parallel to Oshimas was Walley’s Watch Shop that gathered the older crowd to his window watching shop. Near Walley’s was a smaller diner, Rebel Kitchen, that served the new age of adults visiting and staying in Kainaliu—now busier than ever. The shops from was decorated by a neon sign that said “open.” Near the center of the town lied the hippie filled parking lot graced by musical entertainers. The town center was the life of this town wide party. People dance and swayed to the beat of local bans rising to the true potential of their careers.
In the town center, next to the band, was my favorite shop, Wanna Bee Pono—my mom’s ragtag honey shop. She picked the perfect day for a quite grand opening. The shop was magnificently decorated with local products that ranged from simple hippie dippy creams to her home made honey. Her now aged smile may have lit up the town more than any other person in the Kainaliu. She smiled in a half closed eye, smirk tilted, funny looking smile. She paced her shop up and down like a frantic 12 year old looking for a new toy. She was walking on a rainbow.
After checking out everything this town now had to offer again, I strolled the street in satisfaction. I walked at a rubber neckin pace. The streets felt warm tonight. Emma was gleaming and so was the town. I spoke to every owner to understand what it felt like after so long, many felt like the town was coming back to life. I finished the night in an older drive through where I got a classic order of Bulgogi Fries. The fries were soggy. The fries were good.