“It’s my dog’s store,” said proprietor Berni Ruiz, who runs “Sourcing Wellness,” a little nook in the old Yamato Building, with her canine companion named “Na’a.” The two welcome customers into their variety store, packed floor-to-ceiling with teas and spices, essential oils, supplements, healthy snacks, organic, non GMO animal feeds and much more.
“And then there’s all the treasures,” said Ruiz, indicating handcrafted wire work jewelry by “Tig,” clothing, antiques, collectibles and artworks, tucked in corners and arrayed along the shelves.
Like many of the newer shops and restaurants that have opened in Honokaa town in recent months, Sourcing Wellness has a unique personality all its own. With new businesses mingling cozily with well-established favorites, the town is experiencing a breath of new energy – bringing fun, life, interesting food and finds to residents, neighbors and faraway visitors alike.
Though Ruiz said she isn’t a practitioner of all she sells, she does support others on their journey of self-improvement. Sourcing Wellness also hosts a complimentary lending library of health-related books, for customers to borrow on the honor system. There are baskets of vegetables, and from time to time (see the blackboard outside) a big glass gar with a sign reading “Organic Goose Eggs.”
“I just want people to see they can make choices … The whole idea is to empower people about their health,” she said.
Tucked in next door is Stay True Cyclery, where owner Colin Bivens and apprentice Brad Bordessa tinker with two-wheelers. A full-service bike shop, it provide repairs, service and equipment, plus apparel, accessories, helmets, new Santa Cruz and Toy Machine såkateboards, and bikes by Marin, GT, Kona and more.
“Everybody should ride bikes,” said Bivens, who learned to ride when he was 4 years old. “It’s a safe, healthy thing to do. I know it kept me out of trouble—and when the neighborhood kids couldn’t fix their own flat tires, they would bring them to me. Besides, Einstein rode a bike … It’s gas free and good for the environment too.”
Just down the street, The Landing restaurant has brought new life and great tastes to the neighborhood since it opened last year.
“We opened for Honokaa Western Week,” said Evelyn Offenbaker who owns and operates the restaurant with husband Steve. “It started at 11 a.m. and at 11:30 a.m. we had a beer garden.”
Specializing in pizzas with all made-from-scratch sauces and pizza dough, The Landing serves an all-day menu of salads, sandwiches and pub-style snacks. Chef’s specials, such as prime rib, are featured for special occasions like the Honokaa Business Association’s monthly “First Friday” events, where businesses extend their hours on the first Friday of the month so visitors and residents can enjoy an evening stroll-around.
A true neighborhood place, the back bar area was crafted by C&J Concepts, located right down the road. They serve local beers and liquors – even their logo was designed by a Honokaa High School graduate, Valentino Quillado. Regulars can include Roseanne Barr, especially on karaoke night.
Another new eatery in town, Grandma’s Kitchen in the old Ferraro Building, was brought to the community by the Ignacio family, who runs the ‘50s-style Highway Fountain in Laupahoehoe. Charmingly set with a kitschy yellow rose wallpaper, lace curtains and stainless steel and Naugahyde furniture, this comfortable diner features local-style comfort food inspired by chef-owner Chris Ignacio’s two grandmothers, both Portuguese. Naturally, their homemade Portuguese Bean Soup is a weekly special, and others include all-day breakfast, loco mocos, Big Island beef burgers, fresh fish and a lot more.
“It’s a celebration of their legacy, and the feeling they left for their family,” said Ignacio, who remembers watching Grandma make sweet bread when he was a boy.
“I have a lot of those recipes,” he added.
“When you go to Grandma’s house she feeds you and spoils you,” said wife Kendra Ignacio, who helps run the restaurants. “If you know Portuguese families, you know everything centers around food and family. Everybody might be yelling and screaming, but in the end you will always be fed and always know you are loved.”
Across the street, Grace Flowers offers a rainbow of tuberose and orchids, protea, maile and more, sewn into lei, artfully arranged and gathered into nosegays in children’s shoes, mismatched mugs and other creative presentations. Owner Alison Grace Higgins—named for her grandmother who was also a florist—opened the shop in what once was the Hamakua Music Festival office a little over a year ago. Business has been blooming ever since.
May is by far the busiest month of the year, with graduations, May Day, Mothers Day and more. And because she focuses on local-grown flowers, Higgins would love to find more sources for pikake—especially now that the wedding portion of her business is growing.
“The only thing I can’t get locally is roses,” she said.
Eco-minded, Higgins composts all green waste, promotes world peace through flowers, and calls her floral arrangements in shoes an effort to “Reboot, Re-shoe, Recycle.”
Neighboring store, Big Island Grown is a fun collection of products, art and gifts exclusively made on Hawaii Island. Engaging displays of wood, jewelry, textiles and glass co-mingle with Filthy Farmgirl soaps, Mauna Kea teas, Ahualoa Farms macadamia nuts and more.
“Mostly, I went around and hand-picked from farmers markets,” said owner Michelle Barthel. “I would look for the busiest booth … We tried to fill the shop with things we love, and those things fly off the shelf because they are such great products.”
Barthel said that kama’aina have been very supportive, and visitors too enjoy the experience of shopping with the knowledge that their purchases support local businesses. Both she and Higgins are active in the Honokaa Business Association, working to keep “H-Town” vitalized, prosperous, and attractive to tourists as well as local residents.
At the other end of town, C&J Concepts is another family-run shop enjoying brisk business in their first year. Artisan woodworkers Charlie and Justen Paiva, along with mom Florence and dad Lynn, obviously love sharing the beautiful local and exotic wood creations on display in what used to be the Snack Shop.
“We wanted to be something more broad (than a wood shop),” said Justen Paiva. “More like a gallery, with the idea to have things people could use on a daily basis—chairs, boxes, napkin holders.”
An invention of Lynn’s, the clever napkin holder is perfect for outdoor dining, with a cubby and a weight to keep paper napkins in place, and a built-in shelf for matching salt and pepper shakers and a toothpick holder.
Lynn Paiva also crafts clocks, turned-wood gavels (which can be laser-etched) and memorial urns. The Paiva’s also carry wooden earrings and pendants, Christmas tree ornaments and more, made in the shop or by other local wood craftsmen. Rockers, desks, and other furnishings can be made-to-order, and Charlie and Justen Paiva are sought-after for repairs to wooden furniture and other items. They also enjoy the challenge of consulting on new ideas that customers bring to their shop. A recent visitor to C&J came in to inquire about a special item for his boat—a koa toilet seat.
Old and new, there are many more shops and restaurants along Mamane Street and beyond—with more on the way in upcoming months. Always a community of people who enjoy life on the Hamakua Coast, Honokaa continues to grow and thrive as sustainable and creative ideas come in to play in the business arena.