Heart of the harbor

NAWILIWILI — Brian Duncan of Kilauea enjoys the variety of shops and restaurants at Harbor Mall.

“I come and have breakfast, coffee, sit down and read a book,” he said. “I like the Beach Rail, the Mexican restaurant up above.”

He also fancies the location.

“I like it because it’s close to the ocean, too,” he said. “You can walk across the street and you’re at the beach.”

Built in the late 1970s, Harbor Mall has gone through multiple owners and was purchased by co-owner and mall manager Greg Allen in 1999. The mall in Nawiliwili is home to more than 40 business — ranging from a yarn shop to a Mexican restaurant and even a toy store.

“You can get what you need at Harbor Mall,” Allen said. “Whether it’s pediatric appointments, get your taxes done, your bow and arrow fixed, food. It’s very diverse.”

Gary Kaiser and Andrew Kaiser of San Francisco were there with their family on Wednesday. The two men were relaxing while they waited for their partners to finish shopping.

“It’s a quaint, kind of an old school mall and it’s got a lot of cute shops in it,” Gary Kaiser said.

LeGrand Lee, Harbor Mall grounds manager, said he loves how the mall is “locally oriented.”

“We’re always looking for things for the locals,” he said. “We’re not just about the tourists. We’re about the locals here.”

Mall business owners said the majority of their customers live on Kauai.

“My clientele is 70 percent local, 30 percent tourist,” said Adam Moss, owner of Kauai Phone repair.

Moss, who opened shop last July, said he expected to cater to visitors from the cruise ships, which dock at Nawiliwili Harbor once a week in summer.

“I didn’t realize how much local people I would actually be serving,” he said. “I probably get 10 people a day.”

Moss said the centralized island location was perfect for him.

“I figured it was a good spot in the middle,” he said. “People on the Westside, people in the North Shore, both have to come to Lihue at some point.”

The spot formerly occupied by Kalapaki’s Joe’s sports bar remains vacant.

Kalapaki Joe’s, a mainstay at Harbor Mall since 2008, closed earlier this year and opened at the Kukui Grove Center. Harbor Mall office manager Kathleen Robb said Harbor Mall and Kalapaki Joe’s are involved in litigation and declined to comment further.

Owner Jody Valente could not immediately be reached for comment.

Another restaurant rumored to be vacating its spot is The Feral Pig.

According to a July 18 post on the restaurant’s Facebook page, the eatery will close soon.

“We are honored by the sense of community we have felt here in Kalapaki, and are sad to announce this will be our last month at Harbor Mall,” the post reads.

Robb said management hasn’t heard from The Feral Pig’s owners involving the restaurant’s departure.

“I have heard that rumor, but we have the lease and they need to follow lease guidelines,” she said. “If they’re going to be leaving, we need a 30-day notice and we’ve never seen anything. There’s a storage that they’re going to be vacating, but not the actual restaurant.”

Francisco Ubaldo, Feral Pig bartender of three years, did not disclose why the popular restaurant was closing, but said the business was going out on a high note.

“We definitely turned this place into the heart of the neighborhood in this area,” he said. “The following that we had in the past few years has just been phenomenal. Thank you for all the love and support that you guys have given us over the years.”

Other businesses say they’re thriving at Harbor Mall.

Skinny Mike’s Hawaiian Ice Cream, which opened two months ago, has more than doubled the expectations of owner Mike Schrerer.

“The (boat) especially makes Thursdays and Fridays our busiest days,” he said. “However, by no means is it half our customer base. Our customer base is about 70 percent local. It makes a difference, but it’s certainly not how we’re surviving.”

Sandy and Digs Stuart-Williams, owners of Beach Rail Lines, a toy store that specializes in toy trains and diecast cars, have customers from all over the world.

“They come back every year to see us,” she said. “We get a lot of families. It’s a nice, calm, family atmosphere.”

A fun activity at Harbor Mall is the free knitting classes offered by Twisted Turtles Yarn Shop owner Shawna Lee.

“It’s just a passion of mine and I wanna share my talent with other people,” she said. “I teach every Thursday evening, depending. If somebody can’t make it, I’ll give them another day.”

Lee said the mall’s atmosphere is both pleasant and peaceful.

“All of the businesses know it each other and it’s like a family here,” she said. “When you open a business here, you become part of the family.”

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