Coconut Marketplace working to draw people back

WAIPOULI — A struggling Eastside shopping center is looking to revitalize itself with new activities and opportunities for residents and visitors.

Coconut Marketplace recently unveiled Ka U‘i O Ka ‘Aina Cultural Center and a new community meeting space.

The shopping center is also beefing up its farmers markets and adding events like cupcake contests to draw in consumers.

Brett Samuelian downed 11 Sugar Mill Cupcakes in a three-minute span to top the Over 14 division of the cupcake eating contest Oct. 8. And Jhencen Cummings gobbled four cupcakes to claim the title in the Under 14 age division.

“They were coconut, of course,” said Helaine Perel, real estate manager for CB Richard Ellis. “This is all part of trying to encourage residents and visitors to ‘Rediscover the Coconut Marketplace.’”

The shopping center also hosted a scavenger hunt and had prize giveaways over the weekend.

The new cultural center is headed by Leilani and Darrel Low.

“Kaua‘i has always had a need for a place to showcase the Hawaiian heritage, and when Helaine offered us a place, we couldn’t refuse,” Darrel Low said. “It took a lot of work, but it’s open and this is just the beginning.”

Valetta Jeremiah, a New Zealand resident who moved to O‘ahu, was on hand to offer her blessing.

“I just told them if you have a place for me to stay, I’ll come over and teach,” she said.

Jeremiah was joined by Kelley Kanahele, whom Darrel Low described as one of the eldest Ni‘ihau shell lei creators on the Westside.

Following the opening of Ka U‘i O Ka ‘Aina, the weekend was filled with performances from Halau Hula O Leilani, Rava Tikiti Nui as well as Mark Huff and Michael Keale.

Darrel Low also coordinates the weekly farmers market at the marketplace. It started out as a weekly Tuesday event but recently expanded to become twice weekly, from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays on the highway side of the shopping center.

Coconut Marketplace refurbished one of its empty shop spaces to become a community venue, Perel said.

“The former Ship’s Store Gallery space is 4,000 square feet and we’ve made it available to caterers, business organizations, and the public as a meeting space,” Perel said. “There has been some indication that the Kapa‘a area could use some community meeting space and we’ve been able to refurbish that space to meet the demand.”

She arranged to have different sections of the former gallery set up in different motifs to reflect everything from a community meeting to an event as exquisite as a small wedding.

Coconut Marketplace is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday.

Visit www.coconutmarketplace.com or call Perel at 245-4700 ext. 1 for more information.

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

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