Waiola General Store: Lifting the spirits of Hawaii families one shave ice at a time

Selling shave ice for generations

Sponsored by Cutter Chevrolet

At Waiola Shave Ice, the general store is usually packed with tourists and kids during the summer time. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the year is looking a little different for owner Jerry Lee. He’s turning the negative into a positive by using the business slowdown to busy himself with a cause.

“Over the 34 years of running a family business, I have not experienced anything like what I have been through in the past few months,” Lee says.

Lee’s family has been running the business for three generations. The store has been around since World War II when his grand uncle bought it back in 1980.

With the help of some family members, Lee sold cloth masks and donated the proceeds to Aloha United Way. In an effort to raise more money for the community during these difficult times, Lee contacted Aloha United Way again to get a donation box he could use at his stores. Customers donated to the fund for a month, and Lee matched the amount, bringing the donation total to $1,107.

“It wasn’t until I saw Ron Mizutani of Hawaii Foodbank and Chad Buck of Hawaii Food Alliances giving away free food at the Aloha Stadium then I know I gotta get out of this hole for something bigger,” Lee says. “I signed up for all the remaining volunteering spots… A total of two and a half weeks in sweats and tears.”

At the end of May, Lee also began selling shave ice for just $1, Monday through Friday, to help lift spirits.

“I think we giveaway about $35,000 for a total of nine weeks,” Lee says. “The $2 savings might not seem so much, but for a family of four or more, it can add up to a small meal. The whole idea is to help other local small businesses with the money our customers saved, so they can go support their favorite restaurants.”

At the end of the day, Lee says he doesn’t want to remember all the negativity associated with COVID-19, but instead how a simple shave ice made a big difference for Hawaii families this summer.

“At least I will remember the kids who leave coins on the counter and walked away with a big smile,” he says.