A mainland grocery store may now make it easier to connect producers and consumers of food in Hawaii. Whole Foods Kailua opens tomorrow, with an emphasis on its island products.
Tomorrow’s grand opening will include tastings, demos and giveaways.
I attended a free preview tour, which ran every 15 minutes from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. About 400 people got a sneak peak of the store, as well as guided tours of each section by team leaders who described their products and answered questions. Following the store tour, there was a block party in the parking lot featuring live music and free snacks.
I always prefer to shop local, so I wasn’t sure whether having a Whole Foods in town would matter much to me. But after recently missing five consecutive farmers markets due to scheduling conflicts, I’ve decided that going to a grocery store is a good second option, especially if they carry local products not found at farmers markets. Whole Foods will carry island-grown cinnamon, which is a big plus for me. Also, after hearing the description of partnerships that Whole Foods is making with local meat and fish producers, I wonder if having this type of market will encourage more local food production. That would be a major benefit for everyone who lives in these isolated islands.
The new Whole Foods will offer local produce.
I must admit, I was most interested in the beer aisle since first hearing Whole Foods was going to stock local brews. The beer aisle turned out to be truly impressive, as well as the wine aisle next door. In addition to local offerings and national name brands, Whole Foods has its own 365 brand that now includes wine. This store will also have the company’s first in-store wine and beer bar with daily pau hana specials.
They’ll also carry local Hawaii brews, like Kona Beer.
The front of the store is like a mini-food court, with prepared foods for sale from pizza (by the pie or by the slice), sushi, teriyaki noodle bowls and more traditional offerings like salads, side dishes and meats. There is also a large poke counter. This may provide some competition for local restaurants because it will be very handy for tour groups and inpidual visitors to swing by rather than wait to eat at a sit-down restaurant. The store is right on the main Kailua intersection, with lots of available parking. As a visitor, I would also like it because it provides a way to experiment with Hawaii foods easily. The store employees can give information about the contents and will offer free samples. That is something you cannot get easily at a farmers market. Employees are also multi-lingual, which will help with the increasing number of visitors from Japan who frequent Kailua.
I’ve shopped at mainland Whole Foods while living in Boulder, CO, a hotbed of organic grocers. However, this store is different from any of the mainland locations. It truly reflects a sense of place and seems committed to showcasing Hawaii in a manner that will benefit locals and visitors alike.
WHOLE FOODS KAILUA • 629 Kailua Rd., Ste. 100, Kailua, HI 96734 • Opens tomorrow at 9am: tastings, demos & giveaways • Friend them on Facebook, “Whole Foods Kailua” • Free parking; near bus route