The newest addition to the great shops on Kilauea Avenue is a familiar one: Basically Books. Recently relocated from their Kamehameha location (you know, down by Ken’s), the new store is bright, inviting, with choke books about Hawaii. As someone who strongly believes in the importance of knowing the history, culture, language, and traditions of the place in which I am lucky enough to live, I found the selections thorough and inviting. I also very much enjoyed talking story with the owner, Christine Reed, about the history of the store and her family’s history in Hilo.
Christine’s in-laws moved to Hilo in 1958 and started a printing company called Petroglyph Press, which they ran until 1974 when Christine’s husband Dave took over the business. In 1985 they added to their businesses when they opened the bookstore, selling maps, books, and souvenirs. When asked about the Hawaii-focused inventory, Christine remarked that “little independent bookstores can be eclectic because they can feature things the owners are interested in,” and their family had always been interested in local writers and stories. Christine’s daughter Stacey is also involved in the business, the 3rd generation of Reeds to do so. During the pandemic, she helped her mom with modernizing some of their processes, which has served the business well since they reopened and relocated.
The store is not exclusively filled with Hawaiian subject matter, but it may be the best source of Hawaiian materials on this Island. There are other literary subjects in the store as well, along with a wonderful selection of children’s books and skill-building toys (and a stuffed Nene I may have to go back for). The store also has a great selection of Hawaiian music CDs, local and Pan-Asian cookbooks, local and locally inspired gifts, and a card selection with some perfectly snarky options for those friends and family members we all have.
Christine also shared that they try to focus on local authors and Big Island content. I will definitely go back for the “Attainable Sustainable” book written by local author Kris Bordessa, and that probably won’t be my only purchase, if today is any indication. Go welcome Christine and Basically Books back to the downtown Hilo shopping district, less than four blocks from where they started four decades ago. It is a true treasure for the book lover.