Olympic Cafe Kapaa undergoing renovation

KAPAA — A popular eatery on the Eastside is being renovated and expecting to be reopen before Christmas.

Olympic Cafe in Kapaa is replacing its kitchen floor and also undergoing other renovations like painting and refinishing table tops, said Jakki Nelson, Olympic Cafe general manager.

“We are hoping to reopen Christmas week. In a perfect world, we’ll be open the Friday before Christmas. That would be excellent,” she said. “This building here in Kapaa — the Hee Fat building — was built in 1924. It’s a wooden structure. It survived two hurricanes and we had structural issues. Our walk-in refrigerator was sinking and about to fall to the floor into the Hee Fat General Store below.”

Nelson said renovations began on Nov. 1. She said the kitchen floor will be completely rebuilt. Construction also includes the ceiling portion of the Hee Fat General Store, directly under the restaurant.

“While we’re closed, we’re going to refinish the floors in the dining room and clean up and repaint — things we can’t do because we’re open seven days a week,” she said. “Before we can start on that, we have to at least get some of the floor back in the kitchen and get the kitchen equipment back in there.”

About 50 employees work at the Kapaa location, Nelson said.

“Of our 50 employees, a lot of them are part time — they are high school students — but a lot of them have been working here for eight to 10 years,” she said. “Others are collecting unemployment and taking a vacation. One of our servers — Randy — decided to go to Kalalau for three weeks.”

Some employees are momentarily working at Olympic Cafe’s Poipu location, which opened Feb. 8.

“If you go to the Poipu store, you’ll probably recognize a lot of servers and bartenders,” she said. “ A lot of our staff is going down there to work.”

Renovations will also include finishing the restaurant’s wooden floors and replacing light fixtures.

The original Olympic Cafe opened 16 years ago, just down the road where Mariachi’s Restaurant in Kapaa now sits.

Nelson isn’t sure how Olympic Cafe got its name, but she suspects the name came about because the former owners were friends with five-time Olympic medalist Duke Kahanamoku.

Four years after it opened, Troy Trujillo, a California native who had moved to Kauai, relocated Olympic Cafe to its current spot — formerly known as Jimmy’s and also as Carol’s and Charlie’s.

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