Mi’s Italian Wine Market Gambles on ‘Gourmet’
After five years operating Mi’s Italian Bistro in Kealakekua, Chef Morgan Star and his wife Ingrid Chan are determined to take advantage of the growing community around northern Kailua-Kona.
The recently opened Mi’s Italian Wine Market in the new industrial area near Costco is the couple’s attempt to provide convenient high-end food items to potential customers frequenting the highway below.
“The restaurant in Kealakekua is successful, but we realized we’re missing out on all these people who don’t want to drive ten minutes up the hill,” explains Chef Star, who estimates the renovations to the 1,600-square-foot space cost upwards of $50,000.
The store layout is minimalist, with the owners choosing to focus on select wines and food products. The wine selection is half-foreign, half-domestic, and prices range from $9 to $50. Chilled Proseccos and Champagnes are also on hand, as are a selection of artisanal olive oils.
Star, formerly a chef at the Four Seasons Hualalai, now splits his time between the restaurant and wine market. He is confident that his culinary skills offer the business an edge, with the store’s prepared food items pulling customers through their doors.
To Star’s knowledge, Mi’s Italian Wine Market is the only retailer in west Hawaii offering house-made fresh pastas. Bread is also baked daily, and a variety of specialty sauces are on hand that focus on local ingredients (Ahi Bolognaise is a customer favorite.) A selection of island-made cheeses, free-range meats and ready-to-eat entrees round out the food offerings. Many of the selections are friendly toward vegetarians and those needing a gluten-free diet.
To get the word out, Star and Chan market their business aggressively through social media, email, and print advertising. Weekly wine tastings are also held to spur customer interest.
Starting the second location was a risk, acknowledges Chan, who signed a three-year lease for the space. He cites the cost of doing business as the biggest threat to success, explaining “underestimate your sales, double your costs, and maybe you’ll make it.”