LAWA‘I — While some businesses struggled to stay open during the pandemic, a new grocery store in Lawa‘i opened with the motivation of being a place of convenience for residents of Kaua‘i, but was forced to delay their grand opening from February of 2020 to September of 2020.
Judith Page, mother of the owner of Lawa‘i Market on Koloa Road, said her son Ethan Page opened up the grocery store with the intention of serving the community’s needs.
“Kalaheo and Lawa‘i have been without a market since the Lawa‘i General Store, the Menehune Mart and Cujo’s closed a while back,” Judith Page said. “Shoppers have to choose between going to ‘Ele‘ele, Koloa or Lihu‘e for the basics.”
Owner Ethan Page is no stranger to opening a business. Since he moved to Kaua‘i from Maui in 2001, he opened Little Fish Coffee in both Koloa and Hanapepe.
“I was just presented with the opportunity,” Ethan Page said. “Originally they wanted to put a restaurant in here. And I was like ‘I think it would be good if it were just a general store like it use to be.’ I had two Little Fish Coffee shops, I closed the Hanapepe one, and it would have been open for 10 years. It was the only option I had at the time.
“This place had been vacant. It was always a place you could come in and grab a cold beer, avocado, or pumpkin crunch. Btw, we did a bunch of pumpkin crunch over the holidays. We have some amazing bakers,” said Page.
Bagel-lovers can visit the market for their fresh bagels on Saturdays, or their custom-made donuts on Sundays, and check out their daily local specials.
“We do soft donuts,” Page said. “My daughter comes in to decorate them. I try them and the baker guides her; it’s really hands-on for her. All of our fresh bake goods — we do lunch specials every day. Our daily specials are pretty basic. Taro burger from Hanalei, and we have a special every day. We try to keep it simple. The best way to follow us is on Instagram.
“We also serve fried rice bowls, fresh juices, and tons of fish. We can process fish in our kitchen. Sometimes we have mahimahi. We post it on social media when we get ahi. The best way to follow us on Instagram for right now. We are working on a website,” said Page.
Lawai Market will also start offering CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes next month in conjunction with Malama Kaua’i.
Lawa‘i resident Scan Johnston lives right down the road from the market, and he loves making Lawai Market a part of his daily, morning routine.
“I’m a never-make-my-own-breakfast kind of person,” Johnston said. “We bought this house right across the street. It’s great to actually have a place to walk down to when you are feeling adventurous. It’s been great.”
Page said that, like any new business, there were some struggles he had to face to open Lawai Market.
“They stopped construction during the shutdown,” Page said. “I couldn’t have people for that. We were slated to open up in February of 2020, We had those three months of downtime. There was a lot of stuff with shipping, too just delays. It also cost too much to remodel this place. From everything from electrical plumbing to commercial kitchens, which are never cheap.”
Currently, Page has 20 employees and had to make some adjustments due to the pandemic.
“We opened in the middle of the pandemic. It was a bad time to open a business. We had to scale back after the second lockdown ‘cause business dropped that much,” Page said. “When the tourism industry reopened in October, a lot of the employees that worked at the hotels drive past here, we noticed a bump in sales and a few more tourists, but mostly (they are) people going to work, stopping by for breakfast and pau-hana time.”
Page said he is grateful for his local supporters.
“Everyone is so excited that we are here. We get compliments all the time on how convenient it is,” Page said. “They would say ‘Oh I live in Lawa‘i, I don’t have to drive down to Koloa or go to ‘Ele‘ele,’ especially if they just need to get like some olive oil or a bottle of wine or local bread — we make our own bread. We sell a ton of bread.”
Two local residents stopped by early Wednesday morning and were delighted to share why they support Lawa’i Market.
“We come to Little Fish in Hanapepe and in Koloa, and we are right there at Lawa’i Cannery Self Storage,” Shandra Macatee said. “I’m the manager there and normally we walked right up here. But today we drove because of the rain, I love this place.”
Macatee’s friend Shaina Nacion explained in detail why she loves coming to the market.
“There is a little bit of everything,” Shaina Nacion said. “If you run out of eggs, there you go. If you run out of caffeine, there you go. And I like their dairy-free ice-cream.”
Besides the support of local residents, business owners, and farmers, Page said he couldn’t have opened the store without his employees and his family.
“I couldn’t have done this without the support of my mother and my two kids,” Page said. “And I just have a lot of good people working for me. It’s not just me, it’s everybody. Tonya, Glen, the girls up front, the cooks, and my bakers.”
Lawai Market is following all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, keeping sanitizing stations available for customers, opening the outside window for order pickups so customers feel more safe, practicing social distancing, and wearing masks at all times.
The market is open seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.