The building you are in was originally built as a hotel by the Harada family (our closest guess is that it was built between 1911 and 1915). In its heyday, hotel patrons were often contract laborers brought to Hawaii to work on the thriving sugar cane plantations. These men would depart their ships at Mahukona and be brought by buckboard to the hotel for the night. In a day or two, they were pickedup by wagons and taken to the cane camp where they would live. Later, Japanese merchants brought their products to town and were guests at the hotel while they conducted business in Kohala.
The hotel was a lively place, with a large lobby and dinners served in the back room. The kitchen was in the same place that it is today. Horses were tied at the front of the building and wagons rolled through the streets. Rumor has it that as the town grew, the hotel hosted "ladies of the night" to entertain merchants and plantation workers.
Despite their innovative attempts at business, the Haradas went into bankruptcy and the Bank of Hilo foreclosed on the property. The Takata family purchased the hotel in 1926. By that time the building had fallen into a sad state, with the roof collapsed and the floors destroyed. (The floors of today are the same floors replaced by the Takatas in 1926).
For 65 years, the Takatas ran a dry goods and grocery business in this building. And for many years, the family lived in the building as well as conducted business here. (Each member of the family can claim his or her bedroom somewhere in the building). In 1991, the Takatas constructed a new store, just one mile down the road, where they continue to serve the community with the motto they have used for seventy years: "Everyone should leave the building smiling!"
With the closing of the sugar cane plantations over 20 years ago, Hawi and Kapaau became virtually deserted villages. Children had to leave their families to find work elsewhere. When the restaurant opened in November, 1993, Hawi was a "tumble down town," with the only other business being an appliance store across the street. The other buildings were tattered, worn, and empty.
Now, just a few years later, our towns are thriving, the buildings have been renovated, and people can find employment right here in Kohala. Our farmers and fisherman supply the products you will eat today. And in our gallery you will find art created by local artisans from Kohala and around the island as well as gifts- from the Pacific rim. Please wander around our village, because we know that you are the reason we are here and we heartfully thank you!
The Old Takata store underwent 16 months of restoration before it became "Bamboo." Many of the interior colors are original, as well as the exterior green,and the Eugene Savage menus on the restaurant wall are authentic 1950's Matson menus from Hawaii cruises. And, yes, we did find a few termites, but, heck, we figure they're doing their part to hold up this wonderful piece of Kohala's history! We are happy that you have joined us and we hope that you leave the building smiling!
The cuisine and decor of Bamboo is the creation and on-going project of Joan Steffy Channon. She does not take any responsibility for all of the wacky people who work there.