At Niu Valley's Swiss Haus, aloha means auf Wiedersehen
SWISS HAUS is taking its last reservations and will close its doors Jan. 15 after five years at the Niu Valley Shopping Center.
Owner Freddy Halmes is selling the business.
"I'm taking out all the Swiss memorabilia and I'm looking for a smaller place," he told TheBuzz.
He has a broker looking for a location, as well as droves of diners' desires that he relocate near their homes.
"I've got so many different proposals, everybody wants me to go into their neighborhood. It's amazing how selfish some people can be," he laughed.
Many of Halmes' customers have been going to the restaurant since before he owned it. He was a loyal customer himself, when the space at 5370 Kalanianaole Highway was the renowned, beloved Swiss Inn for 18 years before he bought and renamed it in 2000.
A new restaurant operator is buying the lease, said Steve Sofos, president of Sofos Realty Corp., property manager. The deal is subject to completion of paperwork and approval of the landlord, Maui-based First Assembly King's Cathedral and Chapels. The church bought the shopping center in 2004, two years after it leased the old, vacated Times Supermarket space.
Halmes said the new operators will serve local-style food at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Swiss Haus serves home-style German and European cuisine, "food you would have found on my mother's table" in Belgium, he said.
Not that she would serve onaga, "but quality ingredients -- and I hope I can say, quality cooking.
"Nothing goes out (of the kitchen) if I would not want to eat it myself," he said.
Halmes was a pastry chef at the old Hawaiian Regent for 12 years and Swiss Haus was his first restaurant.
"Sometimes, you have to take a risk ... I don't regret the learning experience, and I learned more out of this than I ever thought."
Leaving the space is bittersweet, and he's not in a rush to find a new location.
When Halmes closes his doors he will be able to say, "I don't owe anybody a penny." It was his practice to pay all his purveyors upon delivery. His accountant reminded him, "You know, you have 30 days," but as a small-business person, Halmes said he knew that just like him, the small businesses he was dealing with had to make payroll. Prompt payment is a matter of personal integrity to him, he said.
Halmes was also greatly honored to win back-to-back Hale 'Aina awards from readers of Honolulu magazine. "I was happy to be a part of that ... I must have done something right," he said.
In addition to dinner service, Swiss Haus will serve two more Sunday brunches from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 8 and 15, its last day.
Jo's radio show a go
It's great news for the restaurant industry. Culinary scene queen Jo McGarry will return "Table Talk" to the airwaves from 10 to 11 a.m. every Saturday morning on KHVH-AM 830 beginning this weekend.
McGarry, a MidWeek and Star-Bulletin columnist on comestibles, has missed being on the air since her show was canceled by KKEA-AM 1420 in September 2004.
"I love the idea of Saturday mornings talking about food, farmers' markets, shopping and dining out for the weekend," she said.
"I am excited because I get the opportunity to highlight the small businesses ... who have little or no money to advertise and who get a huge boost from being talked about on the radio. And I love being able to highlight areas such as tipping and poor service, which are common areas of discussion."
The show will broadcast live twice a month from the Sub-Zero/Wolf showroom on Piikoi Street, where guest chefs will be interviewed by McGarry and cook for winning listeners and offer samplings to members of the public.
"Oh that's mandatory," laughed Jean Nakanishi, operations manager.
The show's live broadcasts "are a great opportunity for Sub-Zero/Wolf as well as for people who are interested in meeting the chefs," she said. The first live broadcast will be Jan. 14 and will feature Hiroshi's Eurasion Tapas' Hiroshi Fukui.
McGarry's usual suspects, or regular guests, will include celebrity farmer Dean Okimoto of Nalo Greens fame as well as master sommeliers Chuck Furuya and Roberto Viernes, who are also regular contributors to the Star-Bulletin.
Whiskyphiles will want to tune in for McGarry's expertise on single-malt varieties and her recommendations on "malt of the month."
The showroom is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, the busiest day of the week.
Sub-Zero/Wolf is a sponsor of the show, for which McGarry buys the time from KHVH parent company Clear Channel Communications Inc.
She has lined up other sponsors to underwrite the cost of the time and other expenses.
McGarry will podcast excerpts from her new show on her Web site, at http://www.wineanddinehawaii.com.
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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com