DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kalapawai Market in Kailua is the beach-front store that is also a coffee bar, wine shop and deli operated by the Dymond family. Sons Lindsey, left, and Jeffrey, along with parents Marianne and Don stand in the condiment area.
Family market is one-stop shop
The Dymonds built Kalapawai Market into a gathering place
ON LINDSEY DYMOND'S first day working at Kailua's Kalapawai Market, he got fired.
"I wouldn't break down boxes and take out the trash," he recalled. "I walked home and told Mom that Dad had fired me. She said, 'Go back and apologize.'"
Don Dymond accepted his then-10-year-old son's apology -- and put him to work breaking down boxes and taking out the trash.
Now at 23 and with a college degree under his belt, Lindsey is following in his father's footsteps as general manager of the landmark "little green store" on the edge of Kailua Beach.
Managing Kalapawai Market since 1992, Don Dymond, 59, has transformed a dowdy country store into a coffee bar, wine shop and deli that can supply all that's needed for a beach picnic or a gourmet dinner at home.
And that was after he "slowed down" following a life-changing quadruple bypass.
Don insists that running the market is less stressful than his real estate career in the 1980s. And seeing his two sons involved is part of the fun.
"He still works hard," said Marianne, Don's wife of 33 years, "but this comes pretty easily to him, and it's a lot of fun."
Kalapawai Market is so successful that the Dymonds are building a sister business, Kalapawai Cafe & Deli, on the mauka side of Kailua town, which they expect to open by late summer.
Maybe younger son Jeffrey, 15, will someday run the new store, which will offer sit-down dining that features small plates and wine by the glass in the early evenings.
Even if Jeffrey eventually chooses another career path, the Punahou sophomore is doing his Dymond apprenticeship after school at Kalapawai just like his brother did -- stocking shelves, making coffee, whatever's needed.
"One of the pluses of working in the family business is you kind of have to be good at your work," Jeffrey said. "But one of the minuses might be that there is a lot of pressure to be perfect."
Despite that expectation of himself, Jeffrey said it's "fun to work there."
The Dymonds' other employees also say it's fun to work at Kalapawai. And for the Dymonds, fun seems to lead to success.
Kalapawai Market employee Sally Bottomley calls it "a bar without the alcohol." (Beer and wine are sold, but only for off-premises consumption.)
Besides ringing up deli grinds, java, souvenirs and beach essentials, the clerks act as Kailua ambassadors of aloha for tourists.
"There's an ambiance, a warmth and friendship from the people we've met here over the years," said Kaneohe resident Scotty East, a morning coffee regular with her husband, Jerry, for 15 years.
"From a mom-and-pop market it's evolved into a gathering place," East said as she sat on the long bench in front of the circa 1932-built, plantation-style store. To the side, where the former operators kept chicken coops, the Dymonds have built an outdoor seating area.
Bottomley, who has lived in Kailua since 1969, recalls the market under previous operators Elsie and Richard Wong as "a tiny little brown market with rusty cans, cold beer and nothing else going on."
Now, on any given morning, vacationers buying beach snacks stand in line with well-heeled Lanikai residents grabbing coffee for the town commute and construction workers picking up lunch.
The clerks at the store -- many of whom have worked there for years -- know their regular customers' names and their standard concoction from the espresso machine.
Bit by bit, the Dymonds have upgraded, without losing the old-Hawaii charm. Lindsey is "bringing the store into the 21st century," Don said, by establishing a Web site and installing computerized ordering in the deli.
Kalapawai isn't the only Kailua business that Don Dymond has made a success. He helped open the Kailua Zia's Restaurant in 1998, now managed by Tressa Owens, and he runs the Kaneohe Zia's. "Both are doing very well," he said.
Marianne, 55, has a simple theory about what makes her husband a good businessman: "I think he cares about his customers and he cares about his employees. With that, how can you go wrong?"
Marianne, who is director of Kaiser's occupational medicine program, has never worked at the family store or restaurants. But she does "consult."
One of her suggestions was "if you want women to come into your store, you need to have fresh flowers," Don said. "So the torch gingers for sale out front are one of her ideas."
The Dymonds themselves aren't the only ohana in this family-friendly workplace. Sally Bottomley's daughter, Alisha, is the deli manager. Her niece worked at Kalapawai for years and she hopes her young son will get some experience there, too.
"Jeffrey and Lindsey are great kids. I'd like my kids to grow up to be like them," she said.
Marianne remembers soon after she and Don moved to Kailua from California in 1978 that they drove by the Kalapawai Market.
"Don said, 'My gosh, that is like the perfect place. It's a landmark.' And here we are these many years later."