Kealia Kountry calling all no-imports vendors

KEALIA — Kealia Kountry Market on Sundays offers some things that can be found nowhere else.

Located across the street from the popular Kealia Beach and in the shadow of the Kealia Post Office, Joe and Lihu‘e Lopez host the weekly gathering of vendors from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each week, rain or shine.

“We’re always looking for vendors,” Lihu‘e said between preparing and delivering a Hawaiian plate lunch, the special during the last market. “But the products vendors have must be Kaua‘i grown or Kaua‘i produced. No imports allowed.”

That criteria brings forward unique vendors, some of whom can be found at different events and locations around the island, but more importantly, there are those who are found nowhere else.

“No butter,” said Gregg Glaser of the Grateful Gecko, while he was sharing the booth with Joe and Lihu‘e. “Instead, we use coconut oil. And no sugar. We use honey and instead of walnuts, we use macadamia nuts.”

Glaser said he is working with Joe and Lihu‘e in getting a space, once the backside of Kealia Post Office becomes ready as a storefront.

Eventually, the Lopez’s hope to restore Joe’s Surf School and open early to offer coffee and pastries for beach goers and passing motorists.

“I don’t go anywhere else,” Glaser said. “If people want the healthy baklava or brownies, we’re here every Sunday.”

Similarly, Tiki Tacos — offering fish, organic beef or pork tacos — can only be found at the Kealia Kountry Market.

Joe Adorno, the vendor coordinator for the market, offers his handmade quilts. He had just finished a tour with the Kamehameha Celebration ho‘olaule‘a at the historic County Building.

Indy Reeves said she has been doing crafts for a long time and has been a beachcomber since birth. She, too, does not have her goods anywhere else but at the Kealia Kountry Market, enjoying the cooling breezes blowing in off the ocean and laden with golden notes and mele from the live musicians who, on Sunday, took time to wish 13-year-old Spencer a happy birthday.

She combines both and adds a twist of photography to produce a range of hair accessories and small jewelry, complimenting her husband’s fresh kombucha, which she said customers claim is the best.

“I haven’t been back here since the days when Island School operated here,” said Josh Rudinoff of Lihu‘e who was visiting with his family who all came from Washington state.

Westy Kessler of Sugar Mill Cupcakes can be found at several locations and events around the island, but at the Kealia Kountry Market, she joined forces with friends Roxanne and Alexis Thompson in blending a combination of the gourmet cupcakes with homemade baked goods.

Mayette Loceto does several farmers’ markets around the island but likes the Kealia Kountry because they allow her to bring her handmade fabric bags, the items being conversation pieces among customers who stop not only to sample the fresh papaya with Chinese lime, but to discuss the bags.

Doug Nelson said his son only recently opened a shop featuring the Calabash line of “bendable, wearable wood.”

“It’s a family thing,” Doug said. “This is all my son’s Matthew’s work. He developed the process, had it trademarked and only now opened a shop with Chucky Boy Chock in the fruit stand in Hanama‘ulu.”

The process covers wearable items like baseball caps in a variety of designs to slippers and includes wrist bracelets as well as bookmarks, which incidentally, are the only items which don’t bend because it utilizes two pieces of wood, Doug said.

Keone Durant’s offerings of unique Hawaiian wood sculpture and high quality fish hooks reflect his connection to the water and land, his mallet sending wood chips flying as he devoted his Father’s Day paying homage to his ancestors by working on a bust of an ali‘i.

“Keone shares his talent at different places around the island, but always comes to the Kealia Kountry Market because of Joe and Lihu‘e’s commitment to perpetuate the culture,” said Heather Shadur, Durant’s girlfriend who got the help of her mother from Chicago to assist in developing a website about the legacy of the connection between man, the water and the land.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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