Monday Musings from Melinda by LHS Contributor Melinda M.
A stroll. That’s what you have to do in downtown Hilo because if you walk at the pace you associate with the word “downtown” you might just pass right through it!
Last Monday, I noted how Hilo is changing. But one section that has maintained its character and size is downtown. Essentially two parallel streets intersected by four streets, downtown Hilo still has the look and feel of a quiet Western frontier town – so different from Lahaina’s Front Street and Kailua-Kona’s Alii Drive. Its wooden storefronts still brazenly face the bay that has tried to pull it into its clutches with more than one tsunami.It still has several rusty iron rings anchored to the cement curb from the days when people parked their horses. And it’s still bookended by the gravel, pitted, tarp-covered farmers market on one end and the Koehnen’s building on the other.
Between and behind those well-known landmarks, there is much charm and history. I always tell people that if they are only stopping in Hilo for a day or two, to make it a Wednesday or Saturday. These are the official farmers market (click on link to read an earlier post about the farmers market) days when the town hums with activity. There’s the locals, carrying bags laden with fruits and vegetables, stopping to say hi to each other while others try to navigate their way around them and around visitors who inquire about this exotic fruit or that exotic vegetable and what does it taste like? There’s the aunties and uncles passing by with fistfuls of flowers on their way to the graveyard. On these days there’s also the open market across the street where you can find clothes, jewelry, flowers, pottery and more.
As you stroll toward the “singing bridge” (so named because of the sound the metal plates make under your car), the eclectic ensemble of Downtown Hilo presents itself.
There are a few long-time restaurants along with our long-established health food store, and the candy store that made Hilo children’s dreams come true when it arrived.
There are also my guilty pleasures, The Most Irresistible Shop and Basically Books, where I have gone to lose myself among humorous cards, local books, delightful jewelry, and unique toys for years.It’s amazing how many of Hilo’s downtown shops have been here for decades, from the time the parking meters took pennies (as recently as 1997!) and through the doomsday predictions of the big box stores. It’s also amazing how many young upstarts have managed to make it too!
One thing that is different is its vibrancy – literally! A few years ago, Hilo won Sherwin-Williams’ social media Main Street contest and got a fresh new coat of paint!
And now there are several vibrant murals tucked in and shouting out from various buildings in town. And with First Friday events monthly, Hoolaulea this month and Black & White Night in November, a new nighttime energy proves that downtown Hilo is still very much alive.