Business Monday: Da Beans Green Café serves up ‘spirit-lifter’ New Year’s Eve meal

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Growing up in Minnesota, there were times in Kimberleigh Finnegan’s childhood when her family struggled so much that they ate nothing but bland canned goods they could find in a box in their food shelf.

Phoenix Finnegan serves plates of food to Kevin Jackson of Mountain View and Jinah Janus of the Pāhoa area Dec. 31 during Da Beans Green Café’s New Year’s Eve donation dinner. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

“My family was super poor when we were kids,” Finnegan said. “I have a really hard time looking at a can of creamed corn without wanting to throw up.”

She knows a lot of people on the Big Island are now having similar experiences, with some ending up homeless because of soaring rents and limited affordable housing: “Like entire families trying to live out of a tiny little vehicle.”

Knowing the important role food plays for families during the holidays, Finnegan and her husband Phoenix, who own Da Beans Green Café in Mountain View, on Sunday served up a New Year’s Eve dinner — and traditional holiday experience — to anyone who passed through their doors, even if they had no money.

In 2022, the couple began the donation-based dinners for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve at their brick-and-mortar location. They opened the store 18 months ago — an evolution of a coffee cart by the same name they previously operated in Pāhoa.

“Generally speaking, you make a big feast for yourself, your family or your friends and family anyways,” Phoenix Finnegan said about the holidays. “Why not make just a little bit extra and put it out there so anybody that’s hurting can come and grab a plate?”


Any leftovers from the dinners are given to people in need.

The Finnegans originally planned to host another Christmas Eve dinner, but an illness forced them to postpone the event to Dec. 31.

They want people, including those who have no family on the Big Island, to start the new year off in a better place, saying: “It’s a spirit-lifter.”

  • Phoenix Finnegan prepares plates for guests Dec. 31 as part of Da Beans Green Café’s New Year’s Eve donation-based dinner. ((Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
  • 2-year-old Koi Finnegan, 5-year-old Aria Finnegan and 12-year-old Lelu Finnegan place gifts for keiki donated by Project Hawai‘i under the Christmas tree on New Year’s Eve at Da Beans Green Café in Mountain View. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)
  • Phoenix Finnegan helps Jinah Janus and Kevin Jackson on New Year’s Eve at the front desk of Da Beans Green Café in Mountain View. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

For the past two years, the café has also partnered with Project Hawai’i — a nonprofit that provides services to more than 1,600 homeless children each year on O‘ahu, Maui and the Big Island — to provide gifts to keiki who attend the Christmas Eve dinner. Even though it was postponed, each child who attended the New Year’s Eve dinner still got to pick out a present.

The holiday dinners have turned into a “kids playground,” with the Finnegans’ four youngest children, who range in age from 2 to 12, also having fun playing with the other keiki who come with their families.


“They’re just having a blast,” Kimberleigh Finnegan said. “We end up having lots of play dates after we do these events because the kids meet so many families that they want to spend time with.”

The café regularly serves up its signature one-of-a-kind coffee, made from raw green Kona beans, as well as traditional coffee blends, organic fruit smoothies, tea, fruit nectar slushies, boba and an assortment of mostly homemade food. This includes their Big Island’s Best Breakfast Burrito, other simple yet elevated breakfast sandwiches and truffle avocado toast, and Hawaiian plate lunches.

The Finnegans cook up a traditional holiday dinner during the donation-based events, featuring menu items you could find on many family tables at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. They have served dishes including Caesar salad, honey ham and pineapple chutney, butter herbed turkey, kalua pork and cabbage, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, roasted Brussels sprouts, dinner rolls and pear, cherry, pumpkin and apple pies. They also had a vegetable tray on New Year’s Eve.

They hope the flavors packed in every bite remind people of home.

Da Beans Green Café in Mountain View hosted a donation-based dinner on New Year’s Eve, The first two community members to come and break bread with the café were Kevin Jackson of Mountain View and Jinah Janus of the Pāhoa area, who are pictured here eating dinner Sunday evening at the café. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

“I think in a lot of places, even in the most disconnected or potentially dysfunctional of families, the holidays are always times when they get together and it seems to be centered around food,” Finnegan said. “Food is a very binding factor for people and probably because it’s something we all do.”


Everybody eats, and good food, especially, can change everything about an experience.

“It changes your mood. It changes your outlook. When your taste buds are dancing, your heart is just light and joyful,” she said.

About 20 people showed up to the first dinner on Thanksgiving Day 2022. Just a few more came for the first Christmas Eve event. Attendance increased this year for Thanksgiving, with more than 80 people, including several families, attending.

Phoenix Finnegan was inspired after visiting a Colorado business called SAME (So All May Eat) Café. The corporate-backed café only provides meals on a donation basis, which can include paying back the meal by helping with tasks around the store.

Phoenix and Kimberleigh Finnegan take a selfie June 15 in celebration of Da Beans Green Café’s one-year anniversary. (Photo from Facebook)

The Finnegans are happy to foot the bill for the donation-based holiday dinners. The events cost the café an extra $200 to $300 each.

“If it were up to him and we could actually get funding for it, that’s probably what our entire business would be,” Kimberleigh Finnegan said.

They also receive monetary and food donations from those who attend to help defray some of the cost. Last year, someone donated $250 toward the Christmas Eve dinner, which helped put more food on the table. For the New Year’s Eve dinner, a turkey was donated and the café received a $25 gift.

But the Finnegans are not concerned about the cost.

“We’re helping take care of people that need help to be taken care of,” she said. “That’s why we started doing it.”

The Finnegans say they also benefit from the experience, meeting people from all walks of life, including some who just moved to the island and others who can use some companionship.

“People, especially around the holidays, get really lonely,” Kimberleigh Finnegan said. “We just want to make it as nice as we can for people.”

Her husband said the world needs “bigger tables and less fences.”

The holiday events also help the Finnegans show their kids how good it feels to give to others.

Da Beans Green Café is located at 17-937 Volcano Road in Mountain View. (Photo from Facebook)

“Instead of wanting the presents, instead of looking forward to going to bed and waking up to Santa Claus, they look forward to going to bed and waking up to give gifts to others,” Phoenix Finnegan said.

His wife added: “It’s that feeling of altruism. We’re genetically and chemically programmed to feel good when we help each other.”

With a major portion of their business coming from tourists as they drive from Hilo to Volcano, the Finnegans also support local artists by displaying and selling their work at the café and their adjoining hostel, Pele’s Hana ‘Ana Hotel.

“The artists pick their own price,” she said. “They get every penny that they want for their work and then we just get a little percentage for putting it up and keeping it safe.”

The Finnegans’ philosophy is that if you can help other people, you should.

Da Beans Green Café is located at 17-937 Volcano Road and open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. For more information about the café, click here. You can also follow the business on Facebook and Instagram.

  • You can find art by local artists displayed on the walls at Da Beans Green Café and its adjoining hostel Pele’s Hana ‘Ana Hotel. (Photo from Da Beans Green Café website)
  • Da Beans Green Café regularly serves up its signature one-of-a-kind coffee, made from raw green Kona beans, as well as traditional coffee blends, organic fruit smoothies, tea, fruit nectar slushies, boba and an assortment of mostly homemade food. (Photo from Instagram)
Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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