The Life in Business: Kenji’s House

“Our greatest challenge has been our unique, hillside location in a historic Kapa’au plantation house,” says Catherine Morgan, artist and museum founder. “When Roz, Malia, and I set out in 2006 to create a destination for locals and visitors that combined food, history, and art—all under the name of “Kenji’s House”—we worked hard to draw attention to our business in what still looks like a quiet, shingled house.

Kenji’s House is the former homestead of North Kohala’s Kenji Yokoyama, a third-generation Japanese fisherman, free-diver, shell collector, and folk artist. His home, located 1/4 mile before the original King’s statue in Kapa’au Town, was sold after his death in 2006 and renovated to create three commercial spaces. Three North Kohala artists, Rosaline Maxx, Malia Welch, and Catherine Morgan collaborated in this unique venture, combining a roadside restaurant (Pico’s Bistro), a local artist-run gallery (North Kohala Atists Cooperative “NKAC”), and a small museum to honor Kenji’s legacy (Kenji’s Room). Their goal is to provide a genuine experience of Old Hawai‘i. An afternoon visit to “Kenji’s House” gives the visitor an opportunity to learn more about Kohala’s unique history, to savor fresh, local fare, and to view the creative work by local artists.

Kenji’s House founders, from left to right: Rosaline Maxx, Catherine Morgan, Malia Welch.

Kenji’s House founders, from left to right: Rosaline Maxx, Catherine Morgan, Malia Welch.

The NKAC exists to facilitate networking among artists, and to provide a hub where the community can benefit. The artists are part of Kohala’s generous community of teachers and volunteers, offering workshops to adults and children, projects that enhance public spaces, and enabling artists and craftspeople to experience gallery life.

The first offering is an 8-week series of children’s Saturday art & craft workshops (Oct. 10- Nov. 28), featuring materials from textiles and wood to printmaking and multi-media.

Pico’s Bistro offers fresh, local fare and a relaxed patio or deckside dining experience daily, 11:30-8pm. Chef/owner Rosaline Maxx, says, “I am a decorative artist turned chef. My most recent palette involves the pleasure of turning our fresh, local produce, meats & fish, into a culinary adventure!” Please call 884.5555 for the daily specials.

Kenji’s Room, the personal museum created by printmaker Catherine Morgan, offers a look back in time with a room filled with Kenji’s furniture, papers and marine sculptures. It’s a glimpse into the simple, frugal lifestyle required of plantation life, when the nearest town was 100 miles away. The museum is open daily, 11-5, free to the public.

The North Kohala Artists’ Cooperative Gallery, directed by Malia Welch, photographer/craftsperson, is open 11-5 daily. Please call 884.5556 for details and class schedules. ❖

Comments are closed.