SA: Cafe opens on Hawaiian home land in Anahola

By Jayna Omaye, Star-Advertiser, 5 Feb. 2022

Workers and helpers Robin Danner, front, Norman Solomon, Kongi Faagai, Ikaika Kirifi and Wyatt Kamoku pose for a selfie in the Anahola Cafe kitchen. Photo COURTESY HOMESTEAD COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORP.

Wyatt Kamoku used to wake up at 3 a.m. to make the nearly 30-mile trek across Kauai for his job. Kamoku, who lives with his family on Hawaiian home lands in Anahola, cooked breakfast at a restaurant in Poipu Beach.

But now he’s taken on a new role much closer to home. Kamoku was hired as lead chef of the Anahola Cafe, a restaurant opened in October by the nonprofit Homestead Community Development Corp., which seeks to grow rural economies on or near Hawaiian home lands. Now, he said, he can walk or bike to work in about five minutes.

“The amazing part is we’re a product of the community because we live here,” said Kamoku, whose co-workers also live on Hawaiian home lands in Anahola. “I grew up with a lot of the guys in the community. And now their kids and their parents come to the cafe. It’s kind of like home. To me the feeling is immeasurable.”

Robin Danner, chairwoman of the Sovereign Council of Hawaiian Homestead Associations, which founded HCDC in 2009, said it’s the first time it has led an effort to open a business like Anahola Cafe. The restaurant is at the Anahola Marketplace, which is operated by HCDC on 10 acres of Hawaiian home lands.

She said they began talking about ways to increase job creation and workforce development during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the help of a $50,000 grant from the NDN Collective, a national Indigenous-led nonprofit, in late 2020, the dream to open a restaurant became a reality.

The cafe, which serves burgers, saimin and other local dishes, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Danner said the cafe’s revenue pays for its operations and builds on HCDC’s job creation and workforce development efforts. Kamoku said the business serves more than 100 customers a day, including actor Jason Momoa on occasion.

For Danner, seeing homestead residents giving back to their community and embarking on this first-of-its-kind journey to open a cafe on their own has “been incredibly inspiring to all of us.” She said they plan to replicate this type of model in other homestead communities.

“The cafe has taken off and inspired our homestead residents in Anahola and our homestead leaders that homestead organizations and associations can do something about the lack of jobs in a particular region,” she said. “It’s been an empowering experience. I can’t underscore that enough.”

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