Another Kalapawai In Kailua

Jo McGarry
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Friday - October 06, 2006
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In food terms, Kailua is a happening place. Dozens of new restaurants have moved there in the past couple of years, and while the town might still have its share of fast food places, today it’s full of eclectic little eateries offering myriad dining opportunities.

There’s an amazing energy about the town itself, with construction happening on almost every corner, and it has a beachy, laid-back atmosphere that isn’t replicated anywhere else on the island. There’s a farmers market each Thursday evening that takes place in the parking lot behind Long’s, featuring many of the farmers that congregate on Saturday mornings at KCC. Here, fresh produce and flowers are sold directly by the people who grow them, and ready-made meals are served (perfect for take-out dinner) along with guest chef appearances and live music. If you haven’t ever been, it’s worth a trip one Thursday evening.

But the place that probably best represents the growing foodie culture in Kailua is one of the most original stores. Don Dymond’s Kalapawai Market has been in business for a little over 70 years, and while much has changed about the store itself, the market somehow manages to blend together a little of old Hawaii with the new.

When Dymond took over in the early 1990s, he began turning the business from a sleepy grocery store into a mini food and wine emporium, at the same time creating the ultimate meeting place for everybody and anybody. Go early in the morning to pick up the paper and a cup of freshly brewed coffee, and you can sit outside watching the surfing world walk by. Aloha shirt-clad businessmen stand in line next to windsurfers headed over to Lanikai for the day.

There’s great energy in this little store that encompasses everything a true neighborhood spot should be. It has grocery, beach and sundry items next to fresh produce from local farms, a great selection of wine, freshly roasted Hawaii-grown coffee and a deli counter serving sandwiches and salads of excellent quality. The atmosphere is so laid back and welcoming, and truly reflective of a small town general store, that I always half expect to see John Boy Walton drive around the corner in his truck and settle down with a latte and his notebook to begin documenting days in beachy Kailua. When I was there the other day, a huge box of slightly browning bananas sat inside the store with a handwritten note on top - “Free while they last.”

And such is the popularity of Kalapawai Market that it’s expanding to fairly glamorous new premises. Right in the center of Kailua (where the old L&L used to be) there’s a brand new Kalapawai Café and Deli, with the signature country style green paint and white fencing. The store should be open by mid-October, and even though it’s a bit of a drive from town, I can’t wait to visit.

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