Business

Kalapana Village Cafe Closed, Kaimu Store Expanding

January 24, 2014, 7:16 PM HST
* Updated January 27, 10:26 AM
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The Kalapana Village Cafe at the end of Route 130 in lower Puna closed its doors on Jan. 18, making way for the expansion of the adjacent Kaimu Corner General Store.

The general store will remain open while the expansion project takes place over the next two to three months, said general manager Bridget Boyd.

Expanding the general store will double its size and establish a firmer customer base in the surrounding residential subdivisions instead of relying more on visitors who come and go with the lava, Boyd said.

“You’re at the mercy of Pele” when relying on tourist dollars to make the restaurant go, Boyd said, while people who live here need food and supplies every day.

When the 75-year-old Cash & Carry market in Pahoa, formerly the closest grocery store for many lower Puna residents, closed in November, Kaimu General Store owner Michael Silva decided to fill that small grocery-store niche in lower Puna.

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Another surfboard sign hangs over the Kaimu Corner General Store entrance. Photo by Hunter Bishop

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“The closing of Cash & Carry left a hole in the community,” Boyd said. “A lot of people don’t like big markets.”

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Boyd said she’s excited about the opportunity to offer what people want — fresh local organic produce, more baked goods and larger selections of groceries, including Hawaiian grass-fed beef, and a wider variety of beers, wines and liquors.

The existing patio will become a “retro”-style soda fountain with coffee, espresso, ice cream, shakes, malts, floats, sundaes and fresh juices, she said.

She sees the new Kaimu Corner General Store when it opens as a “Cash & Carry and Malama Market meet Island Naturals” hybrid.

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The cafe was opened in 2008 and the grocery store added a year later, though there’s been a store or restaurant on the property since the single-story, cinder-block structure was built in 1977, Boyd said. For many years it was a Verna’s Drive-in.

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Kaimu General Store manager Bridget Boyd sees a “resurgence” of people in lower Puna. Photo by Hunter Bishop

Now Boyd said she’s seeing a “resurgence of people” in lower Puna with more income than in the past. “Five years ago I couldn’t sell a bottle of wine for more than $10,” she said.

An open market with vendors and entertainment two nights a week at neighboring “Uncle Robert” Keliihoomalu’s property also helps drive more business to the area, she said.

The general store remains open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily with as many items as it can hold and a selection of the freshly-made bentos, wraps and sandwiches that will be available when the expansion is complete, Boyd said.

“It’s very exciting … we’ll be meeting the needs of he people down here.”

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