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Bringing History Back to Honoka’a Town

Gilbert Awong in front of the HFS FCU Honoka'a Branch

If you drive through Honoka’a town, you may notice the new sign at our Honoka’a Branch building, one that nods to the legacy of the historic building that we are located in.

Back in 2016, HFS FCU merged with North Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union, joining the tight-knit community with so much history. We are located in the Awong Brothers Store building, which is the oldest building in Honoka’a and listed in the National Register of Historic Places with the United States Department of the Interior. Just recently, we made some updates to the building exterior, including updating the building signage to include our new logo and a nod to the building’s history by adding the Awong name, front and center. What makes this even more special is that Gilbert Awong, the last owner of the Awong Brothers Store, was able to finally see his legacy etched on the building that once belonged to his family.

We were able to sit down with Mr. Awong and his daughter Beverly to talk about what this means to him and his family. Gilbert’s father, Alfred, was a founding owner of the Awong Brothers Store with his brother Henry. Along with running the general store, Alfred was also a fisherman, rancher, cane planter, bandmaster of the Hamakua County Band, and was even a founder of the Honoka’a Library.

With 102 years of experience under his belt, Gilbert has a wealth of knowledge to share. He took over the store after his father passed away in 1956. He shared stories of days selling $0.31 loaves of bread, showing kindness to neighbors in need with no questions asked, and being a one-stop shop for everything that someone may need (including coffins at one time). Portions of the building were rented out at various times throughout the years to house establishments like a beer parlor for Marines, a warehouse, and Honoka’a Community Credit Union.

When asked how he felt about seeing his name on the building, Gilbert says “Oh, that’s wonderful! At least people will recognize that it was Awong’s before”. His daughter Beverly added that she “wanted it to happen in his [Gilbert’s] lifetime, and it did”.

“The Awong Store holds a special place in Honoka’a’s history and we are honored to be able to continue serving the financial needs of the community from this historic building. We recognize the immense historical significance of the Awong Brothers Store and are committed to being responsible stewards of its preservation.” – Nathan Abe, President/CEO of HFS Federal Credit Union.