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The Heart and Soul of Kihei

Long-time Azeka Shopping Center plays host to South Maui’s newest community event.

June 13, 2013
Maui Weekly

Known as the "Heart and Soul of Kihei," Azeka Shopping Center provides a unique destination for residents, business community members and visitors. Flanking both sides, mauka and makai, of South Kihei Road, the retail mall is a vital asset to the Kihei community.

"Azeka is a one-stop shop for all of the necessities," said Property Manager Evelyn K. Long of MW Group Ltd. "You can find anything you're looking for--banking, floral, medical, dental, travel, postal services, night life with live local music, theater and more," she said.

The center offers a diverse collection of more than 50 great restaurants and shops to explore. The anchor tenants are Stella Blue's Caf, Bank of Hawai'i, Maui Powerhouse Gym, Panda Express, Tesoro Gas and Mini Mart, Taco Bell, Radio Shack, Ace Hardware and the Kihei Post Office.

Article Photos

Flanking both sides, mauka and makai of South Kīhei Road, Azeka Shopping Center is a vital asset to the Kīhei community.
Photo courtesy of MW Group Ltd.

The shopping center, which was built and owned by Bill Azeka and his family, began construction in 1978. Prior to its development, only Azeka Market and a gas station were located on the makai side of the property.

"It was frequented by locals and visitors back then for food, drinks, gas, road directions and plain old 'talk story' with the family," said Long.

"The Azeka Market carried many items, but was most famous--even to this day--for the kalbi marinated ribs that folks took home to barbeque," Long said.

Although the original market closed and Ace Hardware took over most of the space, the rib tradition continued after Bill's passing through his family and son, Tyler, at the Azeka Snack Shop that was located next to Ace. The shop closed in 2006, and unfortunately, the ribs are gone!

The Azeka family sold the property in 2000 to the community-minded MW Group Ltd.

"We make it a priority to be involved in our community through volunteering, hosting events and sponsoring youth groups, scholarship opportunities and much more," said Long.

"I have fond memories of attending the obon dance held at Azeka," she said. "It was a fun evening of food and dancing. It is my goal to bring that event back."

Azeka has also hosted events such as Lokahi and Laulima Giving Projects in conjunction with KHON TV2. In addition, keiki art contests and car washes held at the center have also benefited youth groups on Maui.

"When we were approached, it was a given for our company and Azeka to be the host location for the Kihei Fourth Friday Town Party," said Long, noting that the event began in December 2012.

Maui Friday Town Parties in Wailuku, Lahaina, Makawao and Kihei are an initiative developed by the Maui County Office of Economic Development and the Maui Chamber of Commerce. They showcase Maui's historic towns and celebrate the unique nature of their business communities.

"We have a great group of committee members and volunteers for this event, and I am proud to be involved," said Kihei Fourth Friday Town Party Chairperson Pat Mulligan.

Mulligan thought Kihei needed something to give it a spark and bring businesses and communities together. "This event is it!" he said.

"It's central to all of Kihei and has something for every age," Mulligan said. "People are talking about the entertainment, food, and most of all, meeting up with old and new friends."

The monthly Kihei Fourth Friday Town Party is held from 6 to 9 p.m. at Azeka Shopping Center-Mauka where attendees enjoy food, arts and crafts and plenty of great shopping deals.

The popular Keiki/Youth Zone provides a place for family-friendly activities. Happenings include games, face painting, and arts and crafts for children and teens.

"Bubble Magic is always a hit!" said Mulligan.

"We have over 60 craft vendors who set up on the Azeka-Mauka side parking lot," he said. "In addition, we make room in the craft area for nonprofit volunteer groups."

A large food court area with local tasty treats and food trucks with great choices offer ono grinds for all palates, while live entertainment keeps feet tapping.

"Restaurants and bars are working alongside the event and hosting after-parties as well," said Mulligan.

"It's about just 'living aloha'," said an attendee.

Azeka Shopping Center offers an environment that people from all communities want to visit. In addition, Kihei Fourth Friday provides a delightful evening for all who attend.

For more information, go to www.kiheifridays.com, www.facebook.com/kiheifridays, twitter.com/kiheifridays or call (808) 879-5000.

 
 

 

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