Jo-Jo Acoba traded her Waimea-based shaved ice shop for the classroom seven years ago, becoming a math teacher for special needs students at the local high school.
But when she saw students dropping out to open their schedules for work, she decided to get back into the business.
She and her husband renovated a storefront adjacent to Bucky’s Liquor on Pokole Road in Waimea and re-created their old shaved ice stand, Jo-Jo’s Anuenue Shaved-Ice & Treats.
The shop opened in January, putting four students and four adults to work at a place where the schedule contains words like “canoe,” reminders that student employees have after-school activities that Acoba wants to accommodate.
Jo-Jo’s lists its specials on dry-erase boards with neatly lettered, neon print that reflects the colorful environment Acoba creates for her students at Waimea High School.
The boards are not the only remnant of school.
“Pretty much this is like a classroom,” Acoba said. “We need to find more creative ways to teach. What’s important is hands-on learning.”
DeeDee Latu, a senior in Acoba’s class, said she works in the shop about 20 hours a week, leaving school mid-day to pour colorful syrups over shave ice, run the register and take a daily inventory.
On weekends she supervises the shop.
She had one job at a fast food restaurant under her belt before joining the staff at Jo-Jo’s, but said her work now gives her more responsibility.
“At the beginning it was hard,” she said. “I learn more here.”
Acoba’s experience at her former shop told her what her customers want: fine shavings with flavorful syrups that include the popular — and custom made — li hing mui.
“I know what works and what doesn’t,” she said, adding that she wants the shop to be a resource for residents and community groups.
“When I was growing up,” she said, “I had a little shop like this to come to.”.
Jo-Jo’s hosts its grand opening next weekend, with a Friday blessing, as well as shave ice specials and free balloons through the weekend.
The shop is open from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., seven days a week.