Happy And Healthy In Waimea
By Kellie Pleas
Owner, Happy Mangos
Tell us about your business. Happy Mangos is a one-stop place to get some good food choices regarding health in Waimea. We are a cafÃ© and sell grocery items as well. Originally it was called Mango’s General Health Store and CafÃ©, but after my mother-in-law Happy Pleas passed away last March 13, we decided to open Dec. 13 and call it Happy Mangos.
Where did you grow up and where did you graduate from high school? I grew up in Lihu’e and graduated from Kaua’i High School.
How did you get started in this business? A couple of years ago I was working for Ho’ola Lahui Hawaii, which helps bring healthy lifestyles to the Hawaiian community. Our side of the island has such a high rate of diabetes and obesity. By getting to know more of the people in the West side community from teaching the classes at Ho’ola, I saw that they needed to make lifestyle changes. I wanted to give that opportunity to them with this business. I also changed my lifestyle and the way I ate, and was tired of driving over the bridge to get fresh produce and something to eat. Happy Mangos benefits the community, and it’s been well-received by all walks of life.
What motivates you to get up and go to work? A day doesn’t go by where someone new comes in and says, “I’m so glad you’re here.” So that motivates me and inspires me to keep those doors open.
Do you have a motto?Providing healthy and ono food for our community.
What’s the most challenging aspect of doing business? Balancing family life. I have four children – one just moved to San Diego, 25-year-old Jennie – but I have three at home and my husband. However, my two younger girls, 16-year-old Hannah and 10-year-old Rachel, help me out at the store. Also, my husband, Steve, is a carpenter, and my son, 19-year-old Wells, works with him and they renovated the store for me, so they contributed as well. With my daughters working and new employee Martine Savage, I’m trying to leave at least by 4 p.m., but it doesn’t always turn out that way. Owning your own business, I never thought was going to be this hard. I was the director at Puakea Golf Course before and it’s easy – you just turn on the lights and put the money in the drawer and start the day. But here, you arrive at 3:30 or 4 a.m. and you’re prepping, and it’s all day long. Before I was spending someone else’s money.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? The returning customers.
How do you measure success? I think it’s too early to measure my success because it’s only been two months. I haven’t taken any pay from the company and I keep rein-vesting, but I’m hoping that by the end of the year I will see how successful the business is. However, it’s not about money. I’m not here to make money; I’m here to provide for the community a place to get fresh produce so they don’t have to drive over the bridge – good, unique food that they’ve never tried before.
What are your plans for the future? I have a five-year plan. You’ve got to hang in there for five years. But I do think people are getting more interested in health and the quality of their food. They’re tired of the high-fructose corn syrup and GMO products, which is a touchy subject out here on the West side.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? I would still be teaching water aerobics, managing my household, working in a garden and home-schooling Rachel.
Located at the foot of the Waimea bridge.
Open 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday. happymangos.com