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New cafe is brewing in Aikahi Park center


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POSTED: Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It was a surprise to many Muddy Waters Cafe faithful to see its windows papered up and the favored morning haunt at Aikahi Park Shopping Center closed last month.

Owner Julie Loo recently expanded with locations at Bellows and Schofield and could not be reached.

After the closure of Muddy's, as many local customers called it, “;the first week, I got about 20 calls for the space,”; said leasing agent Gary Cook, of Coldwell Banker Commercial Pacific Properties Ltd. “;A lot of people in the neighborhood wanted to do similar things.”;

The interested party that got the lease is Mark Flathau. He and wife Maho own Ono Dogs LLC, which operates the hot dog and plate lunch stands outside Home Depot's Iwilei and Pearl City stores.

Former Muddy Waters customers and curious shoppers at the center have been stopping in to see what's going on inside, only to find Mark doing construction work.

“;I've got a group of 19 that said they'll be here every day at 6 o'clock when it opens,”; he said.

As for the solo construction, he chuckled, “;I'm a one-man show.”;

It's not that his bride is not supportive. The day he picked up the keys to the cafe, she gave birth to their new daughter, Rhylie, so she's a bit occupied.

Flathau is also a full-time salesman at King Windward Nissan and is on family leave for the birth of his daughter.

Industrywide, vehicle sales have been at historical lows, but careful orchestration of his businesses has helped his family weather the storm.

In Iwilei, Costco's $1.50 hot-dog-and-soda combo caused a 30 percent drop in Flathau's business, which charges $2.50 for a hot dog. So, he diversified the stands' menus to include plate lunches starting at about $5.50.

The hot dog business has “;pulled me through the recession,”; he said.

The new business-baby is to be called Drop In Cafe, Coffee and Deli. Flathau hopes to be open by Dec. 15. It will serve all the coffees cafe customers have come to expect, as well as substantial breakfast sandwiches, breakfast bentos, Chicago-style hot dogs and hearty, “;killer”; deli-style sandwiches, including an Italian beef sandwich.

It also will offer soft drinks and smoothies, and shave ice will eventually be part of the mix, he said.

Flathau initially plans to operate from 6 a.m. to about 7 p.m. daily and might adjust the hours.

“;I'm feeling really great about the opportunity to give, say, six or seven people a job,”; he said.

Having been a Marine and given the shop's proximity to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Flathau thought about calling the new place the Devil Dog Cafe, “;because Marines are Devil Dogs,”; he said.

However, his 5-year-old son, Markiss, attends Catholic school, and he didn't want either himself or his son to run afoul of the nuns, he said with a laugh.

It is because of Flathau's time in the Marine Corps that he is in Hawaii. He was stationed here in 1986, served in the first Gulf War, and his last duty station was Okinawa; but during his 1993 layover in Hawaii en route back to Michigan, he decided not to get back on the plane.

“;I let my luggage keep going,”; he laughed. “;This is home.”;

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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Reach her by e-mail at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).