WAILUA — New restaurants and retail stores have revitalized Wailua Shopping Plaza.
Located at the intersection of Kuhio Highway and Haleilio Road, the plaza signals the entry into the Wailua area, the nearby Wailua Houselots neighborhood and the start of the Royal Coconut Coast.
Kauai Family Cafe moved into the plaza nearly five years ago.
Owner Eden Aladin said they have done well serving Asian and local cuisine, drawing nearby workers who come for the Filipino buffet and the loco moco. The cafe also attracts visitors who want to experience a slice of real life on the island.
”When we first got here it was slow, but our customers come back, and they tell others who want to try,” Aladin said.
Like many strip mall-style plazas built decades before, it once seemed the Wailua Shopping Center had seen better days. A few anchor stores remained but many more had come and gone.
The property is owned by Stanley Togikawa of Honolulu, and managed by Coldwell Banker Commercial.
CBC Vice President Keith Ching said the agency manages both Wailua Shopping Center and the Kinipopo Shopping Village across the street. The stoplight and location are still ideal, he said, and there is ample parking.
Plans to update the mall’s air conditioning and facade are forthcoming. The owners want to break up the long look of the place, he added.
There are two retail vacancies remaining at the Wailua Shopping Plaza. One has 950 square feet and the other is 650 square feet.
The owners are looking at possibilities, from incubator space to creating office space and conference rooms. The goal is to fill available space but first to consider the fit, Ching said.
Startup plans and projections are taken seriously, Ching said. Business owners need to have the wherewithal and some direction.
“The ‘open up the doors and they will come’ idea doesn’t work,” Ching said.
Ching said he and the tenants are watching the Coco Palms updates closely. They believe the redevelopment of the resort would be great for neighboring businesses.
Yunmin Lin and his spouse, Yunling Chen, opened the Super No. 1 Chinese Food & B.B.Q. on Friday. The couple moved to Kauai four years ago and worked at the Kapaa Super No. 1. Lin was also a partner at the Kalaheo restaurant prior to going into their own venture.
They worked with plaza management, the county and state for nearly a year getting the space ready. The couple said it is convenient for Wailua residents.
“They really wanted this space,” Ching said.
The couple plans to be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also have an ice cream counter to go along with the popular bubble tea.
Robin (Kashi) Parmley opened Cafe Nirvana in January. The vegetarian South Indian restaurant is similar to one he ran on Oahu for many years. Seating is limited but the bulk of business is takeout. The menu offers three choices along with lemon cashew rice.
“Fresh, fast and tasty,” Parmley said of the offerings.
The fare is vegetarian and vegan, without dairy, and prepared in the Ayurvedic tradition.
Jonathan (Gadhai) Reeves uses the same certified kitchen to support his Gopal’s Crêperie Kauai food truck in Kapaa. He is also opening Potions Kombucha Bar with the Cafe Nirvana at the plaza.
“We each have our specialities, but in a broader sense we are of the same Ayurvedic culture,” Reeves said.
The kombocha bar should open in a matter of days.
“The new moon is a good time to start new ventures,” Reeves said.
Acrylic Nails salon and Lucy Alteration is operated by Lam Hoang and Lucy Huang. The two adjoining businesses have been tenants for eight years — longer than anyone at the plaza.
“It was pretty empty,” said Hoang. “It has been slowly filling up.”
The Pay Day Loans & Cash for Gold store has been at the plaza for three years. It is owned by Darin Maballo.
Customers seek them out for competitive metals and Moneygram rates, said Alanni Kinimaka, customer service representative.
“It is really mellow here and there is plenty of parking,” she added.