Women Making Waves on Maui: Martha Haleakala of Kobe’s Japanese Steakhouse
By Lauren LaDoux, Maui Sales Director
This is our nod to the women who are standing tall, climbing mountains and making a difference on this little slice of heaven known as Maui. Whether these women are entrepreneurs, humanitarians, environmentalists or are just doing something really cool, they are making Maui a better place, every day.
Kobe's entertaining chefs and delicious food bring people back again and again, but Martha is the restaurant's secret treasure.
Martha Haleakala is the owner of Kobe’s Japanese Steak House over in Lahaina, but that wasn’t always the case. Once upon a time, a little over 20 years ago, Martha was just an employee; a bookkeeper trying to make ends meet to support her family. She was just like you or me.
She had worked at Kobe’s for so long that she was practically running the place already. So, when the day came that the previous owner was going to retire and sell, she seized an opportunity. Martha bought Kobe’s Japanese Steakhouse and twenty years later, she still works there from morning till night. Her role is a little different now, from server to running the entire show, but don’t underestimate Martha - she still gets out there and handles it if she needs to!
Sometimes I get to sit with Martha and talk story with her for hours. She speaks often of her granddaughter, Ashley, whom she’s very proud of and practically raised. She reminisces on the days when Ashley would crawl around the restaurant as a baby, and how she grew up around the teppanyaki grills as a girl. Now, Ashley is a grown woman who has stepped in to help Martha run the place.
For Martha, this is just her life but when I hear Martha talk, I hear the future. I hear a woman who is a business owner building up the next generation of women to continue to be business owners. That’s pretty incredible.
For now, Kobe’s Japanese Steakhouse stands tall on Dickenson Street in Lahaina. It’s being run by two incredible women who continue to give it life and longevity, day after day. Kobe’s is a favorite for locals here on Maui serving up some of the only teppanyaki on the island. They have a great Kama’aina discount but it’s the food, teppanyaki show and atmosphere that keeps people coming back. I’m sure having Martha around helps, too! Aside from locals, Kobe’s has visitors who return here regularly, year after year, which says something in itself.
If you’re in Lahaina and you decide to stop in at Kobe’s Japanese Steakhouse, see if Martha is in and say hi. Ask her about the history of the town and what it was like when she was growing up. Have your daughter or son talk to her so they can see that anything is possible, even if it’s something they ever never imagined. You’ll end up in great company, and hopefully will leave a little inspired.
[Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly noted Martha's former position at the restaurant before becoming its owner. The article has since been updated with the correct information.]
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