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ALICIA’S MARKET IS STILL A FAMILY-RUN FAVORITE. LEONARD KAM WITH SONS CHRIS AND BRAD, WHO BOTH WORK THERE ALONGSIDE OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS.

LEFT PHOTO: STEVE CZERNIAK, RIGHT PHOTO: OLIVIER KONING

Hawai‘i’s general stores achieve greatness by quietly upending the conventional convenience-store approach. Sure, they offer the same things people need right now and don’t want to brave traffic to get—drinks, snacks, smokes, a roll of TP or breath mints. But the great ones tweak the formula by listening to the customers until the menu tastes of genius.

No one does it better than Alicia’s, many would say. Since its birth as a small wooden hut in 1949, started by Alicia and Raymond Kam, the menu mix has gradually grown to more than most stores could handle. That’s Leonard Kam, the president and son of the founders, standing behind the famous poke bar. It has up to 30 varieties of seafood and salads, thanks to continual experimentation that yields poke delights such as smoked tako, spicy scallop, clam and mussel.

The newest is lomi ‘ō‘io, which Chris Kam, the 28-year-old grandson of the founders, describes as “deconstructed fishcake” —the ‘ō‘io meat is de-boned, then mixed with limu, onions and a bit of salmon for flavor.

But what probably first catches the eye is the store’s classic Chinese meat shop: The hanging roast pigs and chickens join char siu ribs, roast beef, steak and those funky turkey tails. Chris Kam sees its increased popularity among his age cohort. “Friends come in because they can’t find char siu or roast pork. They take it home and cook it up with choi sum or kimchee.”


​​​​​​Indeed, though built on the appetites of the blue-collar workforce of the surrounding neighborhood, Alicia’s has found new followers all over town, including the CrossFit gym members down the road. Might the Old General Store Diet supplant the Paleo Diet?
“They come in for salads and poke bowls and roast beef salads,” Chris Kam says with a laugh. “Because I’m younger, I see how people my age want to eat. We’re getting back to the local foods. When we go out to eat, we don’t look for the modern stuff, we look for classics that have been reinvented, that have a twist to them.”
One thing that won’t change is the marketing plan. “My dad always said go by word of mouth,” says Chris Kam. “You can always trust what a person tells you.” That and your nose, in the case of the roast pork as the aroma fills the room.

-Honolulu Magazine


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Hours of Operation
Monday - Saturday 8:00am - 6:00pm

Sunday - CLOSED
267 Mokauea St
Honolulu, HI 96819

(808) 841-1921
          
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Alicia K.Y.G. Kam, A Legacy 1926-2016 lived the American dream. Born in Peru on April 25th 1926, she moved to China and grew up in the tumultuous years during World War II.

After the war, she married Raymond S.H. Kam 1914-2002 and moved to Honolulu. Raymond was born in China in 1914 and the family immigrated with his family to Hawai'i when he was 10. He left school after the third grade and worked for his father and later an uncle at Kalihi Queen Super Meats. Kam had enough smarts to keep a mom-and-pop market flourishing in Kalihi Kai for more than 50 years.
When World War II broke out, Kam joined the Army and served on Guadalcanal and Saipan.


In 1949 with an enterprising spirit, Alicia and Raymond purchased an old wooden store on Mokauea Street; although Alicia learning a new language, new ways, and starting up their family, through hard work, a willingness to listen to their customers, and trying new things, they grew Alicia's Market into a thriving Mom and Pop Store; the old wooden building was knocked down, and after acquiring the adjacent properties, they constructed the current brick building at the corner of Mokauea and Democrat Street.

The foundation of their success was" friendly customer service, happy regular customers, and good food." Alicia and Raymond enjoyed greeting their customers, and loved the fact that customers called her Popo, the Chinese equivalent of grandma. Alicia's market has specialized in home-cooked style foods, such as roast beef, char siu, boiled peanuts, seasoned steaks, and various varieties of poke.

The success of Alicia's Market is illustrated by their large customer base, and being featured in newsclips such as "Cheap Eats", "You Da Kine", and the nationally syndicated "Bizarre Foods". Her son, Leonard and his wife, Gerri, their sons Chris, Brad and nephew Dion currently maintain and grow the family tradition at Alicia's Market.