Cisco's owner to forge ahead after husband dies of cancer
FOLLOWING her husband's death last month, JoAnna Hernandez is forging forward with the vision the couple shared for Cisco's Cantina in Kailua.
Bill Cutler, 43, died Aug. 5 of cancer that was diagnosed a few months after the long-time Cisco's kitchen manager took on a new role -- owner -- in January 2005.
Cutler underwent treatments and went into remission, and continued with his restaurant routine as long as he was able.
"This is what kept him going and hopeful, to have this common purpose for all of us, that I believe challenged him, in a way," said Hernandez. "I really think that having the purpose allowed him to be really clear and live as much in the moment as he could."
Plans from the beginning were to refocus Cisco's into more of a family restaurant, while keeping the bar. Cutler and Hernandez planned to spend about $30,000 upgrading the 20-years-tired establishment. They wanted to bring in live music in the evenings.
"At a certain point we had to put everything on the shelf and put our priorities straight," she said.
All that had been put on the shelf will be taken down and acted upon, though perhaps not as quickly as either would have liked.
While Hernandez has been spending more time at Cisco's, she has continued creating three lines of jewelry under JoAnna Hernandez Jewelry Designs, sold in gift galleries around the islands. It is a focused, therapeutic activity that helps her feel productive and gives her a sense of normalcy.
She has long been involved with the artistic community through the Pacific Handcrafters Guild and more recently, through activities such as the Second Sunday art walk in Kailua.
Cisco's "has been the only restaurant participating for some months because I'm an artist and I really support that endeavor," she said.
Cutler believed, as she does, that the restaurant has a lot to offer the art community.
Hernandez and Cutler were together for 22 years, 16 of them as husband and wife.
They often entertained dozens of guests, and many were amazed she would not have an active role in Cisco's kitchen since she did all the cooking at home for the family and for parties.
She grew up in her family's restaurants and may ease some of her touches into Cisco's offerings, over time.
Having a lead foot on the accelerator of Cutler's life caused the two to ramp up efforts to plan for the future. They created a master business plan with Hernandez's sister, which was completed before his death.
"When we realized that we did have a time factor, it never entered our minds that we would throw up our hands and walk away from it," she said.
The company readjusted staff, with moves such as promoting longtime bar manager Shelly Supnet to general manager. The staff loves her, Hernandez said.
"Of course we miss Bill tremendously," Hernandez said. However, "we have people in place that we trust and are committed and that's what allows me to feel positive and hopeful ... and the bottom line is, I don't want any of them to have to go out and look for another job.
"Even without Bill, we have become a family endeavor. I'm very proud."
Also at Merchants Row
FUNNY how things happen in small towns with large landowners. For the second time, Ohana Karaoke has replaced a bar called Cher's in Kailua.
Cher's closed its Merchants Row location on Hekili Street early this summer, after its lease expired and landowner Kaneohe Ranch Co. decided to make a change, according to Miles Nishijima, assistant vice president for asset management.
Ohana Karaoke is now open in Cher's old double-sized space.
The thing is, when Cher's previously moved into Merchants Row from Kailua Shopping Center, Ohana Karaoke moved into its old space there, as well.
The move was an upgrade for both businesses. The now-vacant space at Kailua Shopping Center is about 1,700 square feet and the Merchants Row space is 2,350 square feet.
Lease negotiations are under way for the old Ohana Karaoke space, with a potential-but-as-yet-unidentified tenant.
Mary's Toys, owned by former TV reporter Mary Zanakis, earlier moved from Merchants Row into Kailua Shopping Center and is now two doors down from an almost-literal sister shop, called Mary Z's. It is owned by Mary's sister Terrie Farmakis, but was named for their mother.
Mary's Toys is in half of the old Alpha Video location, which was divided into two spaces, Nishijima said.
"The other half is under construction," for Elvin's Bakery Inc., a new tenant that has an existing location at Kapalama Shopping Center on Dillingham Boulevard.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, 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