Small businesses band together

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Over 50 business owners came together on Friday at Olympic Cafe in Kapa‘a to discuss their concerns regarding the tourist industry being closed off and how they can be heard.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Kauai Juice Company owner Kristal Muhich introduced herself and explained why she was there at the meeting on Friday at Olympic Cafe in Kapa‘a.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Dr. Addison Bulosan speaks at a meeting of business owners and concerned citizens at Olympic Cafe in Kapa‘a Friday, hoping to get the meeting more organized.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Michelle Emura, Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce board chair, was at Olympic Cafe in Kapa‘a, and she shared survey data that her organization conducted last year with the chamber’s members.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Olympic Cafe owner Troy Trujillo opens up the meeting with why it’s important for business owners to meet at this crucial time during the pandemic.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    “For Our Rights” organizer Danny Hashimoto talked about why he was at the meeting Friday at Olympic Cafe in Kapa‘a and how important it is for business owners to come together and educate themselves on what is happening at the state and county levels that affects their rights.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Jimmy Jasper, owner of Noka Fair, said he and his family’s businesses are done. Like many who shared their challenges during these hard times last week at Olympic Cafe in Kapa‘a, he hopes to find a solution soon.

KAPA‘A — Last week, more than 50 frustrated business owners gathered at the Olympic Cafe in Kapa‘a to discuss ways to keep their businesses open.

All were invited to another gathering, set for today at 3 p.m. at Vidinha Stadium.

The idea to bring together Kaua‘i’s small-business community started with a few residents, including Olympic Cafe Owner Troy Trujillo.

“Randy Boyer mentioned to me on Tuesday that we should get some business owners together and talk about solutions to the lockdown that’s hurting so many and that has put others out of business already,” Trujillo said. “I called a dozen or more business and restaurant owners I know — Bubba, Kristal and Mike. Then it blew up from there.”

Trujillo said he and other business owners understand that a lot of people are nervous about the virus, but he believes more are hurting financially.

“We need to open Kaua‘i up safely, and soon. We want to hear a plan from the mayor,” Trujillo said. “Doing nothing is not working.”

At the meeting, Noka Fair Owner Jimmy Jasper said his business is also struggling.

“We are done,” Jasper said. “We grew up here, this is our childhood playground, and we can’t survive without the tourism.”

Kauai Juice Company Owner Kristal Muhich said she and other business owners hope to have a few meetings on the topic, with the goal of creating a safe and effective list of suggestions on opening up the island for Mayor Derek Kawakami.

“It’s really important that we started the dialogue now,” Muhich said. “What we want to do is hear from all business owners. What challenges are you facing?”

At Olympic Cafe, each business owner shared their thoughts on the new bills being discussed on the county and state level regarding the Safe Travels program. Also at the meeting was Councilmember and former Mayor Bernard Carvalho, who said leaders need to find a way to be more responsive with information to prevent confusion and misunderstandings.

“I think the biggest issue is not getting information back (to business owners),” Carvalho said. “How can we really get back the information in a timely manner? I feel that we need to find a way (to) keep our community informed, which the businesses are doing right now.”

Helping organize the meeting was Dr. Addison Bulosan, vice president of Lihu‘e Business Association.

“It is clear that many local small businesses are on the brink of closing for good, and we need as much community support for these businesses,” Bulosan said.

“These are the businesses that employ local families, donate to community fundraisers and provided sustenance for our island. All creative solutions are welcomed, and we hope by working together we can save our local businesses.”

Kawakami wasn’t at the meeting, but said he understands Kaua‘i’s residents are undergoing difficulties, emphasizing there is “no silver bullet” that will quickly solve all of the problems.

“I know our small and large businesses are hurting, and their pain is real,” Kawakami said.

“We are and will continue to do our best to find additional paths that allow our rural community to safely add more economic activity in areas like tourism. In the meantime, our low case counts have allowed us to focus on vaccine rollout, and the CDC’s new quarantine guidance regarding vaccinations confirms we are on the right track by concentrating on this tool to help rebuild the economy.”

23 Comments
  1. Mona February 17, 2021 5:13 am Reply

    Ok small business guys wear a mask- need to start with safety first!!!


  2. Flatten the curve?? February 17, 2021 7:15 am Reply

    What happened to flattening the curve?? Keeping the numbers down?? Our mayor has taken flattening the curve and turned it into a sport. Flatten the curve mayor not eliminate it. You can’t use lack of ICU beds here as an excuse. We fly all of our critical patients off the island to Oahu where they can be treated. What have you been doing to prepare for reopening?!?! You have had a whole year now to think about it and we want answers.


    1. Lisa February 18, 2021 3:59 am Reply

      Locking negative tourists in hotels with a tracking device and then charging them $200 per person for a negative covid test in order to be released is insane!! Who charges for covid tests? Paradise? Sounds more like PRISON!


  3. I saw a Vampire once February 17, 2021 10:08 am Reply

    I can see how it can be hard. You guys trying to keep your customers, while I scare them away with comments like I hate football. It can be a tough business trying to keep all your customers. Regardless if they don’t like or like football. Just for profits, go with the flow. And become a person of mindful thinking. It must be thirst after. Then it will work out.


    1. much harder for employees February 17, 2021 3:27 pm Reply

      “mindful thinking” won’t pay rent, buy groceries, or clothe my kids.


      1. I saw a Vampire once February 18, 2021 1:36 pm Reply

        Neither would your elected officials Derek Kawakami or Bernard P. Carvalho jr. This won’t help much.


  4. Peter February 17, 2021 10:27 am Reply

    This should never have been about EITHER keeping the island safe by keeping tourists out OR keeping people in business by letting tourists in. Had the Mayor and his cabal of salaried decision influencers provided local small businesses with real financial support (not the laughable $7500 grant) we could have had both physical safety for the residents AND financial security for the local business people.


  5. No easy solutions February 17, 2021 1:26 pm Reply

    The mayor says there are no easy solutions. That is a cop out. He won’t even show up to hear businesses concerns. I would love to have his money, or the money of other prominent keep it closed people. It is the perfect opportunity to buy in or buy businesses that are failing or about to fail. Get them at the right time, cheap, with cheap labor because of high unemployment, then sell in a year or two after we open back up for a nice profit. Watch the politicians and their money like a hawk! I have no doubt some will enrich themselves at their neighbors expense.


  6. JOHN Grave February 17, 2021 3:21 pm Reply

    We feel sorry for all ,of the small businesses in Kauai in these crazy Covid times. We holiday in Princeville every year and have done so for about 9 years. We love supporting small cafes, pubs, shops on the island and consider Kauai our second home. Sadly we have we have not been able to visit in 2020 and travel restrictions from Australia certainly look like we wont be visiting again this year. We have just come out of lock down today and have been in lock down since March 2020. Our business which is tourism based has suffered too. Still we soldier on with revenue down 75% over the last year.
    Stay positive guys the tourists will be back and we look forward to visiting once air travel
    from Australia is back to normal probably in 2022.
    John Grave . Melbourne . Australia
    plateproviders@bigpond.com


  7. CommonSenseish February 17, 2021 4:02 pm Reply

    If it’s not obvious by now, if you are a restaurant and you are still struggling or closed due to Covid, maybe look at your menu and switch it up a bit, you may be a one hit wonder. One hit wonders obviously were being kept open by the excessive tourism. Places locals maybe have tried but wouldn’t go to again. Shrimp Shack is a prime example. What local would pay $12+ dollars for a scoop of rice and 6 shrimp? Ate there once, never again. NOKA Grill, horrible owners…I wouldn’t touch it just because of their history, owners of JJ’s broiler.

    Also, look at your response to Covid. There are MANY of us that are working, if not much harder, since COVID Started and because of my job and just pure exhaustion after work, I eat out alot. There are places I avoid that I used to go to because of how uncomfortable it is to eat there now with all their restrictions. Verdes is one that I won’t touch anymore.

    SOME REALLY GOOD PLACES TO SIT DOWN AND JUST NOT BE TREATED LIKE YOU HAVE A DISEASE ARE…. Kauai Pasta, Lilikois, Da Crack, Mariachis, Deli & Bread, Number 9, Kountry Kitchen, Kalaheo Cafe…


  8. Erzincanli February 17, 2021 5:17 pm Reply

    We need to band together to have our voices heard. To combat the fear mongering by the mayor and his well to do cronies.

    Thank you for starting


  9. Will Kauai ever open February 17, 2021 5:25 pm Reply

    My wife and I have visited Kauai 1-2 times yearly for the last 15 years. We have cancelled 3 trips since the lockdowns on Kauai. I’m curious if Kauai really wants tourism to return or not. It looks like kauai has been influenced by the ultra wealthy and want nothing to do with tourism. I gave up on Kauai and next month we are going to Oahu for few weeks. I have bonefish fever and look forward to fishing with some guides that want to take a tourist fishing and make a living.


    1. CommonSenseish February 18, 2021 10:28 am Reply

      The Mayor only wants you to visit if you are rich. If not, don’t bother. Even if you were rich at this point, if you arrived here you would be watched and one little wrong move you are done. Go spend your hard earned money somewhere else, I would.


    2. Joe Public February 18, 2021 10:51 am Reply

      Thank you for keeping Kauai Safe.


  10. Tony February 17, 2021 5:31 pm Reply

    I’m confused. Do you locals want us to come over or what? One day I read how bad you have it without the visitors, the next day I read visitors stay home. we don’t want you. It will cost me an extra grand to come over after I jump through all the hoops. I live about 40 miles south of Seattle. I have not been around anyone sick and have been staying home for the last year. Except the golf courses. I get my second vaccine shot on Saturday. I know I haven’t been exposed. I play golf with other retired players that are taking care of themselves too. I keep getting invited to Mexico. Unless I start reading some news that says I’m welcome, I’m not coming. I only spend a few thousand when I am there so it’s no big deal. On one hand I feel like I want to help because I love coming over there. Then on the other hand I don’t feel like I’m welcome.


    1. CommonSenseish February 18, 2021 10:31 am Reply

      They just like to grumble, Dem state remember? The mayor only wants you to visit if you are rich. The locals only want you to visit if you stay invisible. Lived here all my life and there are much better places to vacation, Aloha is only for familiar faces. This island needs another hurricane to put everyone back in their place.


  11. Marceline February 18, 2021 3:47 am Reply

    There will never be a 100% safe solution but the Safe Travels program was, and is, a step in the right direction. The islands need to be cohesive in their approach to travel so that visitors and residents can be assured that travel plans will not be cancelled, restaurants and hotels can re-employ and open, excursion operators can re-gain their livlihoods and citizens will not have to rely on food banks and government monies to get by. This island was once a thriving community and is now a depressed one. This is not how it has to be, Mayor Kawakami. Let your citizens regain their independence and their pride in themselves and in Kauai.


  12. Eric Greenfield February 18, 2021 8:04 am Reply

    Thanks for the input. You are right 95% of restaurants here are absolutely terrible overpriced tourists traps, mainly the “fancier” ones. Maybe they do deserve to go down as they shovel out tourist garbage on a plate and charge too much. Restaurants need to wake up they serve garbage and they know it. No they don’t deserve a bail out.


  13. CommonSenseish February 18, 2021 10:33 am Reply

    10 days from now we are going to see a headline “20 new Covid Cases stemming from Olympic Cafe meeting” – No social distancing and very few masks. Laughable.


  14. Joe Public February 18, 2021 10:53 am Reply

    Mexico is a nice place to go, please have fun.


  15. Mel Jones February 18, 2021 4:23 pm Reply

    Kauai’s mayor is being stupid. The Safe Travels program works if you know how to work it. I have traveled to the Big Island twice since 10/15/20. I was required to have a negative COVID test within 72 hrs of departure from the mainland, and I was tested upon arrival at the airport in Kona for free. Everyone on the plane was. Once I received my negative result, I had to show it to get my rental car and also to check into my hotel. Everyone on the Big Island wears masks. They are getting the business and their case rate is super low. I don’t know why Kauai can’t follow such a simple plan


  16. Lynn Wilson February 18, 2021 8:36 pm Reply

    Just for the point of discussion, we are owners in a local resort and come to Kauai every year from the mainland (except 2020 where we had to cancel two different trips here). We are currently on island, having participated in the bubble resort program prior to heading to our condo. The paperwork, hurdles, forms and timeline requirements to complete this process were confusing, extensive and at the end expensive. We did not stay in the fanciest resort but because of housing costs, limited food options, required wrist monitor, and rapid onsite Covid testing, we were out of pocket $1600+ before even getting our car, groceries and heading to our condo. If we didn’t love this island so much, having come here since 1984, we would definitely have chosen another island for our winter getaway.


  17. Chris G February 19, 2021 8:15 am Reply

    Almost none of them wearing masks, even while speaking right next to eachother. That speaks volumes about the degree to which these business owners actually care about the health and safety of this community. These people do NOT represent Kauai’s business owners as a whole.


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