Fresh, Fruity And Smooth

‘No runny smoothies’ at Aloha ‘Aina Juice Bar

‘No runny smoothies’ at Aloha ‘Aina Juice Bar

Misha Taylor
Owner, Aloha ‘Aina Juice Bar

Tell us about your work, and what you do. I own Aloha ‘Aina Juice Bar, a juice and smoothie bar located inside Kukui’ula Market in Po’ipu. Kauanoe, my 8-year-old daughter, who attends Kawaikini, a Hawaiian immersion charter school, named the business. Aloha ‘Aina means to love the land. At Aloha ‘Aina Juice Bar we make juices, smoothies and acai bowls using the freshest ingredients available.

How did you get started in this business and how long has it been going? I reopened the juice bar as its new owner Dec. 1, so I have been in business about three months now. Teresa Gonsalves started the juice bar about 10 months ago. She had the original vision to open a spot where people could get fresh juices and smoothies using local fruits and vegetables. A few months later, she found out she was pregnant with her first child and wanted to focus on preparing for her baby. I was a frequent customer, and she offered to sell the business to me. She wanted someone who would carry on her vision. I was honored she thought of me. I have never owned a business, but felt confident that this was something at which I could really be successful.

Where are you from originally and what role does that play in your business, if any? I was born and raised in Hanalei Valley and have been living on the south side of Kaua’i for the past 13 years. Having roots on both sides of the island has played a huge role in my owning the juice bar. I haven’t done any advertising, so most of my customers have been people I know throughout Kaua’i. And thanks to my friends and family, slowly but surely the word has been getting out and I have been getting more new customers. People posting pictures on Instagram have been a huge help, too. My customer base is about 95 percent local, which is unusual for a Po’ipu business. Visitors also have been hearing about me and are starting to trickle in. Aloha ‘Aina Juice Bar has a five-star rating on Yelp! from these visitors, which is great.

What is your specialty? I only make fresh-squeezed juices, acai bowls and smoothies, but the acai bowls are definitely my No. 1 seller. People are hooked on the Chunky Monkey Bowl. It consists of Tambor acai, strawberries, banana and peanut butter blended with almond milk, then it’s topped with homemade granola, fresh banana, chocolate chips and honey.

What is your educational background? I graduated from Kapa’a High School.

What sets your work apart? No one else on the South side is offering fresh juices or acai bowls. I find people are looking for foods that are fresh, healthy and local. Aloha ‘Aina Juice Bar is really becoming a gathering place where people come from work or a workout to get re-energized and talk story.

Misha Taylor tries to use as many local fruits and vegetables as possible | Amanda C. Gregg photos

Misha Taylor tries to use as many local fruits and vegetables as possible | Amanda C. Gregg photos

What is your business philosophy/motto? There are two parts: First, to serve the freshest ingredients possible with lots of aloha. I like to give generous portions and I like my smoothies to be nice and thick. No runny smoothies. I want people to feel that they are getting a good value since they are paying hard-earned money for a fresh and healthy product. Second, I try to get as many of my fruits and vegetables locally as I can. Even the Brazilian acai I use, Tambor acai, is from a local company based out of Hanalei. The granola is made fresh daily by my mother-inlaw. My husband Ben goes out and harvests bananas for me. I also frequent the Koloa Monday market and the Wednesday market at Kukui’ula Shopping Village. Ben and I have been really blessed. Our neighbors and friends in ‘Oma’o and Kalaheo let us come and pick from their lemon, lime and tangelo trees. As soon as I start running low on fruit, friends will stop by with buckets of oranges, avocados or anything else from their yard. Another good friend even dropped off a gallon of honey he just harvested the other day. The Hawaiian value of Aloha ‘Aina is truly within my friends and family, who have been so supportive, and then it’s passed on to my customers through the food I serve.

What is your business plan for the future? I am not looking too far into the future and I am very happy in the present, taking each day as it comes. I love my little corner in Kukui’ula Market. This market is one of the last family-owned and -operated stores on Kaua’i, and the owners, Aunty Terry and Uncle Paul Kuribayashi and their employees have become like family to me. I just love coming to work and being with all of them. A lot of people don’t realize how much this little market has to offer – fresh Kaua’i-grass fed beef, lots of organic and gluten-free products, ready-made foods, a salad bar – and now a great juice bar located in the back of the store. I would like to add more Kaua’i products to my menu. I’m currently looking for someone who can provide sugar cane and guava. If anyone has a connection, let me know.

Another great thing about the juice bar is it has become a social gathering place. It’s pretty funny, I don’t know if it’s the “bar” aspect of it, but we will find ourselves doing ‘olena, (ginger) and lemon shots and talking story about what’s going on in every-one’s day. It gets me into trouble because I’m usually a one-women show, and if I talk too much I get behind on my dishes and prep. A lot of people have suggested I move to a more visible, high-volume location. That’s not going to happen. I love being at Kukui’ula Market. Nothing beats the laid-back aspect of it all.

What motivates you to go to work each day?I enjoy a healthy and active lifestyle. I’m proud of the product I serve, and I love that my children are surrounded by all of these beautiful fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. I do hope more food establishments on the island try to feature more Kaua’i-grown foods and products. The citrus, avocado, bananas, ginger and kale from this island are second to none.

Aloha ‘Aina Juice Bar is located in Kukui’ula Market in Po’ipu and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.