When Kuau Mart closed in 2011, the Northshore was bummed. We lost a beloved mom and pop bodega. What’s worse, there were barely any left. There were rumors that Whaler’s General Store or ABC Stores were gonna step into that spot, but instead it sat empty. That is, until Ed and Kathy O’Malley decided they wanted to open a new convenience store.
“Our concept for Kuau Store is a deli with a general store, integrating healthy and local foods,” says Kathy. “The general store is a step above a normal convenience store, in that there are also many healthy and organic products, as well as plenty of choices for those with special dietary needs, like gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, non-GMO and raw/plant-based options.”
It took the O’Malleys about six months to build out the store. Portions of their menu and juice bar feature reclaimed wood from the original store. The effect is to mix a modern look with a shabby chic feel.
The delicatessen offers panini sandwiches, poke, salads and plate lunches. The juice and smoothie bar has espresso, kombucha on tap, little grab-and-go muffins and breads, fresh veggie juices and, of course, smoothies.
“The delicatessen is the focus of the store, and is fashioned after the old delis that we remember going to as kids,” says Kathy. “Ed grew up in New York City, I grew up in Detroit. We feel that fresh quality ingredients never go out of style, and taste best when prepared in a simple, classical way. But then we update things with a twist–perhaps a superfood like goji berries, or a Hawaiian ingredient such as Pohole fern.”
Their prepared salads are out of the world. They rotate recipes but lately the Pasta Puttanesca made with spiralized zucchini and the Kale and Swiss Chard with mac nuts and goldenberries are the favorites, along with their Pear and Spinach Salad.
“The sandwich creations were inspired by Ed’s upbringing in Queens,” says Kathy. “Our kitchen space is a limitation. We also want to keep things on the healthier side, and we do not have a grill or hood system.”
Kathy says a source of recipe inspiration comes from “Johanna Waters on an ongoing basis, whose training is through Matthew Kenney and Mark Reinfeld in Vegan Fusion and Plant-Based cooking techniques. Sabine Sacksteder, our Kitchen Manager, is also involved with Recipe creation and converts everything to a production level.”
Their juices and smoothies come in a 16oz size, and they’re priced $7 to $8. Kathy says all the smoothies are fortified with “superfoods” packed with extra nutrition, and the customer can watch them being scooped individually from a line-up of mason jars.
They created their own special blend of coffee with Maui Oma for their cold press and espresso. Kathy makes her own almond milk daily and they sell them in mason jars in the store’s grab-and-go section. There they also sell wraps, desserts, snacks and summer rolls.
I picked up a collard green wrap that had their chicken salad with nuts and cranberries tucked into it. It was an ingenious use of the thick, hearty green, which made a great gluten-free sandwich. The deli poke was delicious, glistening, cold and fresh. They stock three or four different kinds daily.
The O’Malleys say at the end of the day, employees take home leftovers. They don’t throw away anything that could be given away.
If the O’Malleys seem familiar, you might remember them from the Ma’alaea General Store. They were part of the opening team when it was renovated. But the O’Malleys say that wasn’t their own. At Kuau, it’s different–the store is their baby. Ed and Kathy also owned and operated “Ed’s Juice Joint” at the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado for many years.
The Kuau Store opens at 6:30am and serves until 7pm. They are located just east of Paia town along Hana Highway.
701 Hana Hwy., Paia
Images by Sean Hower