Lung Wah Chee—also known as L.C.— was the proprietor of the original Kong Lung Company. The commencement of his business on Kauai was timed to meet the first group of Chinese immigrants that arrived in 1876 to work for the Kilauea Sugar Company, a British-owned plantation. The other plantations on Kauai were owned by Americans, Germans and Norwegians, and plantations’ general stores were typically run by Japanese immigrants. Having a person of Chinese descent operate a plantation store was considered unusual, but due to the relationship between the British empire and the colonization of Hong Kong in the mid 1800’s, it allowed Chinese immigrants the ability to work better jobs in Kilauea Town. It is also due to this relationship that the Kilauea Town had a China Town, unlike any of its competitors on the island.
In 1892 Mr. Lung ran Kong Lung Company in its original location near the present Christ Memorial Church. He, his wife and 10 children lived in the rooms above the store along with newly arrived Chinese workers assigned to Kilauea. When Kilauea Sugar Company decided to get out of the retail business in 1902, Mr. Lung moved the store near its current site and rented the two-story wooden building from the plantation. Spurred by meeting its sugar quotas, the Kilauea Sugar Company built its last field-stone building in 1943, which you are standing in front of today, replacing the wooden structure.
Eventually Mr. Lung purchased this building and the general store business from the plantation, later passing it down to his son Kwai Chew “Chow” Lung. Not only was there a general store inside, but you could find the post office, barber shop and diner making it the pulse center of the Kilauea Community.
Despite the closure of the Kilauea Sugar Plantation Company and the end of their family business in 1973, the Lung family legacy will live as long as this stone structure is here to remind us of the past.
In 1973, Tim King and Kelsey Maddox-Bell and transformed The Kong Lung Company into something less like a plantation store and closer to it’s present-day state.
Hurricane Iniki pitched Kong Lung Company’s newest owner, Patricia Ewing, a curve ball in 1992. When after only having the business for 5 months, Kauai was basically shut down and most of the existing structures were damaged or destroyed. A year of restoration later and Kong Lung Company was open again. And today it stands strong as a testament to Kilauea Town’s strength and vibrancy.