SURF SHOP OWNERS OPEN CAFE
When they relocated from Ward Avenue to Kakaako a couple years ago, Tropical Blends Surf’s co-owners Jim Hayes and Tisha Tom had no idea the scale of the growth that was about to come to the area. But in that time, they have seen new businesses sprout up nearby — and more recently, they’ve turned their own space into a hub of activities.
About a year ago, the husband-and-wife team sub-leased an upstairs room to antigravity aerial yoga studio The Hang Out, then rented a second space to ballet barre, yoga and cardio studio Sweat + Soul. Plus, Hayes and Tom also opened pop-up eatery Kaili Cafe next to Tropical Blends in September.
“We want to create this little oasis down here (in the cafe) that people can come to, relax and enjoy good food and a good atmosphere,” she adds.
Hayes, a lifelong surfer, first launched Tropical Blends in the late 1970s, when he was just in his mid-20s. He closed up shop and moved to the Mainland for many years, but when he and Tom returned to the Islands, Hayes got back into surfing.
“He started getting boards made for himself, and next thing you know, they are piling up in the living room, and then filling up the second bedroom,” Tom recalls.
When surfers began to come to their house to look at boards, the couple knew it was time to start the shop again. Tropical Blends offers a range of surfboards and stand-up paddle boards, along with a collection of water-related gear.
Meanwhile, Hayes had been encouraging Tom to sell her quality home cooking for years.
“Cooking is just kind of in the blood,” Tom says, explaining that she learned to cook from her mother and grandmother.
So when they moved to Kakaako, the couple decided to give it a go, clearing out the board storage room and converting it into a prep kitchen and dining room. Upstairs, the building has a commercial kitchen.
Kaili Cafe serves poke bowls, which is among Hayes’ favorite foods, using local, auction-fresh fish, with choices that include spicy, shoyu and tofu. Tom developed the poke sauce recipe with help from a chef at Halekulani. Plus, the cafe also offers organic sorbet, and Tom concocts a couple of different salads each week.
Because Kaili Cafe is mainly an after-hours operation for Tom — she also works as a customer service agent with United Airlines — its hours are limited. It’s open for lunch, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. In the near future, though, they hope to expand the hours and menu, to offer breakfast items such as juices, coffee and pastries. They’re currently in talks with a juice presser and a cup-cake maker.
“The neighborhood has been really great,” Tom says. “We have regulars who come every single week.”
In anticipation of future area growth, Tom and Hayes also are toying with the idea of renting out their commercial kitchen to other culinary entrepreneurs.
“There are commercial kitchens, and sometimes the hourly rate can get a little bit too steep, if your product is small and you don’t have a large market,” Tom says. “That is why we started talking about creating a place where people can come and kind of get a little start … Our kitchen is not very big, but whatever space we have, we’d really like to help other people out. I just love that idea.”
Tropical Blends, Kaili Cafe, The Hang Out and Sweat + Soul are located at 810 Pohukaina St.