KILAUEA — Raj Denisewicz wasn’t expecting to pick up a coffee from Java Kai on Saturday when he journeyed to Kilauea to check his post office box.
Now living in Kapa‘a, the former Kilauea resident was surprised when he drove by the Kilauea Lighthouse Village and saw a cluster of cars in the parking lot.
“I wondered what was going on, so I came to check it out,” Denisewicz said, holding up an iced coffee and a pineapple he picked up during the grand opening of the new Java Kai location in Kilauea.
Denisewicz was one of a long line of Kaua‘i locals who dropped by the new location — named Kai Bar — during the Saturday opening.
In the spacious dining area, Victoria Quintana sat down to a mozzarella and tomato sandwich on ciabatta bread and a Thai coffee. She traveled from Lihu‘e to congratulate owners Sean and Xochitl Garcia. Through the years, her kids have worked at the Kapa‘a location.
“They’re all going to make their way over here today,” Quintana said. “It’s exciting, and we really want to support them (Sean and Xochitl).”
The opening of Kai Bar in Kilauea has been a long process, beginning about seven years ago when the Garcias chose the Kilauea Lighthouse Village for their new location. With an already-loyal customer base on the North Shore, Sean Garcia said they were ready to expand, and “it made sense to give them their own spot.”
“There is space for us on the North Shore and (Kilauea Lighthouse Village) has a good mix of local businesses opening up,” Sean Garcia said.
Plans to open Kai Bar Kilauea were paused several times through the years. After waiting for the new shopping center to be completed, the Garcias were ready to open the new location in April 2018, but the catastrophic rains that flooded the North Shore halted progress.
The couple was geared back up for opening when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
But, they had all of their equipment ready to go, and when enough staff members said they felt it was safe enough to go back to work, the grand opening was once again a go.
“The staff was able to come back, so, why not?” Sean Garcia said.
“We’re looking forward to being part of the Kilauea community,” Xochitl Garcia said. “We have a lot of customers here already, but we’re seeing new faces, too.”
A familial atmosphere surrounded Kai Bar on Saturday as neighbors and friends stopped by to congratulate the Java Kai staff, who were all masked and mindful of pandemic rules as they took orders and delivered food.
And when they weren’t busy catching up with customers, the couple was busy helping General Manager Monique Tucker and the staff keep up with the crowd.
Kai Bar is open daily 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. In the future, the staff plan to be open on afternoons and evenings. They’re working on securing their liquor license.
“We’re thinking we’ll have mimosas and that kind of thing eventually,” Xochitl Garcia said.
Jessica Else, editor, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.