For nearly 65 years, Harry’s Music Store has given the greatest gift to the local community that any business ever could: the gift of music.
This family business serves Oahu residents as the go-to shop for everything musical. The now closed (and soon re-opening) Harry’s Music Store encompasses 10,000 square feet and even more instruments, sheet music, vinyl records, CDs, cassettes, song books, and some of the island’s most knowledgeable and influential musicians and tastemakers.
The closing and re-opening of Harry’s
Next month, the shop is moving down the street to a location that’s about one-tenth the size of what it is now.
It’ll be the third time Harry’s Music Store has moved since opening 1946. It’s first location was just across the street, but the iconic green building in Kaimuki is the distinctive characteristic that most people remember Harry’s by.
“The gaudy green, two-story, 55-year-old-plus building, with its chipped paint, crumbling walls and large puka in the ceiling—where an elevator was supposed to have gone—exudes character.
‘When people walk in this door, they don’t come as a person who just happened to pass by,’ vice president Alan Yoshioka said. ‘They come from Ewa Beach, Kaneohe or Kailua,’ looking for specific items.” — Honolulu Star-Bulletin, April 23, 1996
The clearance sale: everything must go
Harry’s is moving down the street, but they can’t take everything with them. So what’s a business to do? Move out inventory, quick.
So the music store hosted a 3-day weekend clearance sale with ridiculously low prices (records were cheaper than toilet paper, @shackwax said).
After spending three days digging through the albums for cheap—cheap!—records, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t ever been to Harry’s before, because I had come across some fantastic albums.
I frequent Jelly’s and Hungry Ear Records (and thrift shops, too), but for some reason I always thought Harry’s was strictly devoted to instruments and songbooks, not vinyl records.
The massive weekend clearance sale at Harry’s Music Store proved me wrong. What I found were dozens of handfuls of quality soul and funk albums and singles. Jackpot.
Unfortunately the bins didn’t offer any Hawaiian music (maybe other local collectors picked it clean before I arrived, but I doubt there was much to begin with). Fortunately, I’ve increased the size of my record collection at a bargain price—about 10 cents a record!
Meet Alan Yoshioka
Aside from the records, I wanted to find out what the rest of the store was like, so I introduced myself to vice president Alan Yoshioka and asked him to give me a quick tour.
Alan’s footprint in the local Hawaiian music scene spreads wide and far. He’s one of the originators of the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, Hawaii’s most prestigious music awards.
“I think about 100% of Hawaii’s musicians know me,” he told me. It’s probably true, because although Alan’s role in the Na Hoku Awards goes unnoticed if you’re attending the ceremonies, this man works harder than most throughout the year to prepare for the show.
I told Alan I like the music of Hawaii’s 1970s and 80s music scene, like Kalapana and Mackey Feary.
“Mackey Feary? You know, I was at Kalapana’s first record release show and I remember saying, ‘Who are these guys?’ Nobody had heard of Mackey or the rest of the guys before. In fact, I remember most of the media not being there because Kalapana wasn’t so well known at the time.”
A lifelong legacy
Harry’s three nephews, Alan, Glenn, and Clayton, have been with the shop since its early beginnings.
The year 2012 marks a new beginning for Harry’s Music Store, which will continue to supply the instruments and instructors necessary to the survival of Hawaii’s musical legacy.
Psst. Want to hear some of the music I found at Harry’s? Check out this free mixtape.