One of the most iconic mom ‘n pop stores on Maui — if not the entire state — is Ah Fook’s, with its humble beginnings dating all the way back to 1917, when Tam Ah Fook, who had emigrated from China years prior, along with his wife Margaret Fong opened a store at the corner of Ka‘ahumanu and Pu‘unene Avenues. The establishment included a small grocery, a butcher shop, a restaurant, and a boarding house where single men resided, many of them store employees.
Tam actually being his last name, as is in proper Chinese custom where names are in reverse compared to English, Ah Fook was Mr. Tam’s first name, and how his employees would call him. So instead of it being named Tam’s Supermarket, it’s Ah Fook’s Supermarket.
After Tam Ah Fook passed away in 1946, his wife Margaret, son George and other relatives continued to operate the store, then when Kahului Shopping Center opened, they moved there under the supervision of James Mizoguchi, whom Tam Ah Fook had hired as an errand boy in 1924, establishing the larger, more modern store in 1955 as Ah Fook’s Supermarket.
Then on February 28, 2005, when Ah Fook’s was to celebrate their 50th anniversary, a catastrophic fire broke out, leaving the historic store in total ruins, and the entire Maui community in a state of mourning, as if a death of a beloved family member had tragically taken place.
And what will you find at Ah Fook’s Supermarket? Well, first of all, by today’s standards of what a “supermarket” is, you’ll find Ah Fook’s to actually be at a crossroads in size and selection between that and a more cozy, old school, really, really (I mean REALLY) local style mom ‘n pop superette.
Sure, it’s large enough to warrant having shopping carts, and prices are surprisingly competitive to the “big guys”. However there’s many locally made items in Ah Fook’s you just can’t find under one roof anywhere else on Maui, or all of Hawaii for that matter. It really is an eclectic selection of groceries, ready-to-eat goodies and other household goods that reminds you that you really are on Maui. Kinda’ sorta Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii. Not so much Kauai. However, most certainly not “anywhere USA”, as you may feel in stores such as Safeway and Costco. I’d say for the most part like a variation of Alicia’s Market in Kalihi Kai here on Oahu.
Holy’s Buttered Apple Pie from Kapa’au, Hawaii (the Big Island) available at Ah Fook’s Supermarket, along with Buttered Pear and Buttered Peach Pie, ready-to-bake for that oven-fresh taste!
Ah Fook’s actually has a couple notable brands imported from the Big Island, including what I consider THE BEST Portuguese Sausage in Hawaii from Frank’s Foods in Hilo. Ah Fook’s also carries Holy’s famous Buttery Apple Pie, as well as all the other flavors from Holy’s Bakery out in Kapa’au on the Big Island.
Ah Fook’s No-Ka-Oi Brand Portuguese Sausage (no longer available… booo!)
Speaking of Portuguese Sausage, as you may have heard, Ah Fook’s No-Ka-Oi brand Portuguese Sausage is no longer available, since their outsourced sausage maker, Roger Nakamura retired, and as of thus far, there’s no plans to continue the brand, being 1.) Mr. Nakamura (now retired) has the original recipe; 2.) Ah Fook’s has the rights to the No-Ka-Oi brand name; and 3.) Ah Fook’s doesn’t have the inclination, facilities or logistics to continue producing it. Shall we start a petition to bring back No-Ka-Oi sausages?
Anyhow, that’s too bad, as I swear, between Ah Fook’s own and now defunct No-Ka-Oi brand, Frank’s from Hilo and Oahu’s own Rego’s Purity, Ah Fook’s Portuguese Sausage was an absolute tie for FIRST PLACE in my “Great Portuguese Shootout” comparo’.
Without further ado, like Takamiya Store in Wailuku from the previous post, I’ll let the photos do rest of the talking, as I take you on a walk around tour of Ah Fook’s Supermarket in Kahului, Maui, dated May 23, 2013. Enjoy!
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So on your next visit to Maui, make it a point to stop by Ah Fook’s Supermarket. It’s just minutes away from the airport as you arrive or leave the island, so there’s no excuse not to! There’s a LOT of history behind that store, and you’ll find so many interesting things to eat that are difficult if not impossible to find anywhere else, all conveniently as a one-stop Maui (and Big Island) ‘kine grindz kinda’ shop. Ah Fook’s Supermarket is definitely a Maui must-do!
P.S. Here’ a panoramic view of Makena’s “Big Beach”, taken from high atop the rocky ledge that divides “Big Beach” from the clothing optional “Little Beach”…
• Remembering Ah Fook’s – Maui Magazine
• If Mr. Ah Fook and the Revolutionaries of Maui did not exist, there would be no modern China – Maui News Blog
• Ah Fook’s Supermarket – Yelp user reviews
• Ah Fook’s Brand No-Ka-Oi Portuguese Sausage – The Tasty Island
• Paia Eats: Iwamoto Natto Factory Natto – The Tasty Island
• Paia Eats: Iwamoto Natto Factory Undried Saimin – The Tasty Island