Story by Sarah Ruppenthal | Photography by Ryan Siphers
“You live there?”
Todd and Debra Preseault get asked that often—and they answer with obvious delight. “It gives us an opportunity to explain the history of this place,” Debra says.
In fact, the couple is so accustomed to the intrigue surrounding their Kula home that they’ve come to expect the occasional passerby peering inquisitively into their street-facing kitchen window (Debra had an opaque drop-down curtain installed). “We get a few gawkers,” Todd laughs. “Sometimes they’ll apologize and say, ‘I was just wondering what this was.’”
And the Preseaults understand their curiosity: Set along a stretch of roadway that meanders past a church, school and community center, the home’s vintage storefront-like façade belies the 3,300-square-foot residence within.
Built in 1932 as a way station for road-weary travelers headed to the summit of Haleakalā, the property was purchased a few years later by the Morihara family, who opened an eponymous general store that served the small rural community. Two decades later, the Moriharas relocated to a new store less than a mile away; they converted the original location into a home for the family patriarch. That renovation, and a second remodel in the 1980s, precludes the structure from being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Todd, a general contractor, and Debra, a certified public accountant, stumbled upon the three-story home nineteen years ago. A realtor was showing them the house next door when Todd spotted the “for sale” sign on the Moriharas’ lot. “I said to Debra, ‘Now that’s something I can work with.’”
The vacant property needed some TLC: Tall weeds choked the yard, the paint was peeling, and broken windows punctuated the top floor. Debra admits she was skeptical at first, but knew her husband’s knack for sussing out potential in unlikely places. “I didn’t see what he was seeing, but I trusted him,” she laughs.
The couple bought the home and set out to restore it to its original splendor—and quickly. “We found out Debra was pregnant with twins the week we closed on the house,” Todd says. Given the accelerated nine-month time frame, he had to reprioritize his original to-do list.