Haili's Hawaiian Foods to reopen in Kapahulu


POSTED: Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The venerable Haili's Hawaiian Foods, tracing its roots to as early as 1941, will open in a new home in about two weeks at 760 Palani Ave. in Kapahulu. Somewhat fitting, as Palani is the name of a fish, and fresh-fish dishes are among Haili's specialties.

Vacated by Pho 38, the new Haili's is at the corner where Palani and Winam avenues connect with Kapahulu Avenue. Its front door faces Kapahulu, said co-owner and Vice President Lorraine Alo, one of six sisters who run the business.

Its booths and tables seat 25 customers, and it has a six-stall parking lot on Winam Avenue. Otherwise, as with many Kapahulu-area businesses, customers will need to find street parking or, for pickup business, have a payment-wielding runner who can get out of the car whilst the driver circles.

It is makai of the new Safeway, on the same side of the street and, lest your columnist ignore the 800-pound gorilla, is steps away from Ono Hawaiian Foods at 726 Kapahulu Ave. Established in 1970, according to state business registration records, it has been written up by the likes of Gourmet magazine and Zagat, among many.

Kapahulu Poi Shop, established in 1969, another family-run Hawaiian food restaurant, is at 3110 Winam Ave.

It is said that a rising tide lifts all boats, and Alo hopes Haili's presence will “;enhance what's there,”; as opposed to being seen only as competition.

She likes the neighborhood vibe. While the crew has worked to upgrade and prepare the new digs, they have been warmly welcomed.

“;Pizza Hut sent pizzas over to us. ... It was very kamaaina, a real local feeling,”; Alo said.

Haili's will need the usual government clearances before opening, so she didn't specify an exact opening date.

Haili's had to move out of the Ward Farmers Market in July, a space now wholly occupied by Marukai Corp.

Since about 1950, Haili's had been operating in what was initially the Ala Moana Market, opened by the Ward family sisters “;for the Hawaiian fishermen,”; so “;they could have a place of commerce.”;

Alo's mother, Rachel, started the first Haili's Hawaiian Foods in what is now Oahu Market around 1941, after the Pearl Harbor bombing when her father was stationed at Schofield.

Haili's opened a lunch wagon across from the Ward 16 Theatres this summer “;to stay in contact with our customer base,”; Alo said.

The company has 10 employees, and despite severely curtailed business, rather than laying anyone off, it kept everyone on the payroll, though with reduced hours.

The company might hire additional help for the new location, she said.

It wasn't easy for the family-owned business to find a new location, despite numerous business closings in this downturned economy.

“;There are a lot of spaces open for food service, for restaurants ... (but) a lot of places are not compliant”; with grease-trap laws, she said.

To install a new grease trap of the size Haili's needs in a noncompliant space “;would cost us $60,000,”; Alo said.

So, the six sister-partners took their time finding “;the right space.”;