After serving the Pepeekeo community for nearly a century, Low Store will permanently close its doors today.
“My parents decided they are ready to retire and ready to spend time with the grandkids,” said Jana Soli, one of the business owners. “… They’re ready to retire and move on to the next phase of life.”
Originally built by Soli’s great-grandmother — school teacher Agnes Low — as a gas station in 1925, various businesses have been operated by different family members over the past 96 years.
The site also has housed a service station, arcade, auto body shop and convenience store.
Operated now by third and fourth generations of the Low family, Soli said the shop has always been owned by the women in her family.
“It was my great-grandmother’s and my grandmother’s and then she passed it down to my mom and aunt.”
Soli said her grandmother and aunt started a general store and “a little bit of a restaurant” in the 1990s, “and then it kind of morphed into what it is today.”
The store in its current iteration — a general store and deli — took shape around 2008, when Soli, her parents and siblings took over operations.
“We took a lot of the original recipes that my grandma and my aunt were doing, like the smoothies and the shave ice … and then we just kind of grew it,” she said. “We had a lot of friends that worked with us, a lot of really amazing employees and we were able to just generate more business because of having more people working here.”
Soli said the COVID-19 pandemic did not factor into the family’s decision to shutter the store.
“It was tough on us, the way it was for all the small businesses on the island, with the different regulations and hoops and everything. … But we’ve actually been talking about retiring for a long time,” she said. “It’s been in discussion for a while, it just happens to be right now we decided to move forward with it.”
But closing the store is “really bittersweet.”
“I think the hardest thing for us is saying bye to seeing all of our regular customers all the time,” she said. “We have just an incredible community that comes in daily, weekly … and they’ve been coming here for years, and that’s going to be really hard to transition into being just a next-door neighbor, rather than that person in the neighborhood that gets to see everybody on a weekly basis.”
Soli said the she hears from many in the community that the store was part of their childhood, “or part of their life for whatever phase of time they lived in Pepeekeo.”
“This was the school bus stop for them, or this was the place that they came to get shave ice after school or this is the place that they would always pickup their stuff to go fishing,” she said. “So it’s a place that kind of has been a really cool benchmark for people in their lives of living in Pepeekeo, being a part of the community.”
And for the family, Soli said it’s been an honor to be a part of the community and provide something for their neighbors.
Soli relayed an anecdote from her grandmother, Geraldine Low Carvalho, who had lived two houses down from the store.
“She would work at the store by herself. She worked seven days a week and every single night when she walked home, whoever was in the park (across the street) would turn on their headlights so that she could walk home without being in the dark,” she said. ” … I knew that story meant a lot to her because she would tell it a lot. … I think it kind of shows the reciprocity or the give back in the community. As much as we have been able to provide for them, I think they’ve been able to provide for us, too. That’s what it takes to be a small business off the beaten path in a community.”
The family has listed the land and building for sale.
“The name will carry on in memory, and … we’ll keep up our social media and kind of show life in retirement and share pictures of the cats that everybody has come to love, but the Low Store business itself and the name is going to end with our family,” Soli said. “We are talking with a few people who have some really great ideas of other community-based businesses that they’d like to do. We’re hoping that it becomes something else really, really cool for the community.”
Low Store will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today.
Email Stephanie Salmons at email@example.com.