They’re Going Nuts In Hanalei

Christine Bayley-Wortley in her Hanalei nut shop. Coco Zickos photos

Christine Bayley-Wortley
Owner of Kaua‘i Nut Roasters

Tell us about your business. I own a gourmet nutroasting company in Hanalei. We try to work with as many Hawaiian ingredients as possible: coconut, ginger, tropical fruits, coffee, cacao and vanilla. I started the business in 2002 working out of a certified kitchen in Kapa’a and I opened the store three years ago.

What was it like opening a business during the peak of an economic crisis? It was a little scary to be starting a venture during that time. Also, the St. Regis and Westin in Princeville weren’t open yet, so it was pretty desolate here when we opened the store. But we just hung in there and hoped for the best. After lots of hard work, it’s really coming together.

What was your secret to success? Already having my wholesale business.

Why did you get started in this business? I love nuts.

What was the very first flavor you created? Sesame flax almonds.

How do you come up with the recipes? I let myself get really hungry and start thinking about what would be good to eat right at that moment.

How did you get started in this business? I invested in all of my equipment and I just kind of winged it. I did work other jobs at the start, so I wasn’t always just doing the nuts I waitressed, bartended and painted houses.

How do you describe success? Doing something that makes you happy, first of all. Second of all, providing enough money to keep you floating. If you can get those two things going, you’re pretty lucky. I’ve finally been able to do that after nine years. If you work hard and do something and enjoy it, you can tell; it’s contagious.

Where else besides Hanalei do you sell your nuts?

Some places are Ishihara Market, Living Foods, Papaya’s and Banana Joe’s. We also distribute to places on the other islands and ship to the Mainland. We like to keep it small, though, for specialty gourmet food companies that are going to appreciate the products.

How did you hook up with these businesses? Some of them I approached and others came and found us.

What’s the best-selling flavor? Coconut Cherry Pecans with Li Hing or Holy Cacao.

What’s your favorite?

Holy Cacao.

How would you describe the various flavors? You feel like you’re doing something good for your body and your taste buds. Even though there is sugar in the product, people like sweet stuff and we’re going to have it anyway, so eating nuts is a good way to do it, as opposed to eating a bag of Skittles or a doughnut.

How do you stay in shape with so many tasty treats around? Surfing.

What are your plans for the future? We want to expand our line of trail mixes and get into doing more specialty items that feature nuts.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? To make people happy. Sometimes people will come in and maybe something’s happening, a little drama on their vacation, or it’s raining and they wanted the sun, so they come in all bummed out. We always cheer them up.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business? Finding the willpower and energy to stick with it and work, even when you’re exhausted or it’s a beautiful, sunny beach day.

What’s the ratio of visitors to kama’aina customers who patronize your store? Ninety percent visitors and 10 percent kama’aina. The local people buy our stuff at stores closer to their home. A lot of people who come in that live here are surprised by the amount of products we actually have. We also have samples of everything and that’s always nice for people who live here because you get to try them first.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? I’d have to be making money probably at a hotel restaurant somewhere with a great view.

Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday

4484 Aku Road 826-7415