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One of Our Hidden Gems: Kailua in Hawaii

KailuaWith over 340 stores (and counting!), we’ve got a lot of hidden gems out there. Get the story behind the store in this final post in this eight-store series. Read through them all, maybe your store was featured!

Read on to find out how you could win a $50 gift card to Whole Foods Market®. UPDATED: Thanks to everyone that entered. Congratulations to our randomly chosen winner, Stephanie H.!

Today we’re talking with Dabney Gough, Marketing Supervisor at the Kailua store in Hawaii.

What’s the best-kept secret at your store?

Our shave ice from the coffee and juice bar. Shave ice (no “d”, please!) is a refreshing local treat of feathery, finely shaved ice topped with flavorful and fruity syrups.

At most places, the syrups are full of artificial colors and flavors; ours is not only free of all that, but also made with Maui cane sugar and locally grown exotic fruits like jaboticaba, mountain apple and lychee. Our store is the first Whole Foods Market to offer shave ice, so you have to come to Kailua to try it!

If I walk into your store for the first time, what should I absolutely not miss?

Being in Hawaii, it sometimes feels criminal to spend any more time inside than absolutely necessary, and one of the nicest things about our store is our ample outdoor seating. Our lanais are the perfect place to meet up with friends, sip on a glass of wine, and enjoy our beautiful weather and fresh air.

Got any behind-the-curtain surprises you can share?

We have a great partnership with Aloha Harvest, a local organization that picks up food from restaurants, grocery stores, and caterers and redistributes it to those in need. We donate our still-edible leftovers to them, and older items go to a nearby pig farm. We try to avoid wasting anything!

Kailua - Poke

What’s the most crave-able thing at the in-store Windward Bar?

Our team members make a mean burger, using 100% grass-fed Maui Cattle Company beef and locally baked hamburger buns.

We also have a wonderful vegan version using Maui Taro Burgers, which uses both the root and leaves of the taro plant for a flavorful and healthy burger. They get super crispy when griddled – so good you won’t miss the meat!

Whatcha got going on with local schools or non-profits?

We have a longstanding and rewarding partnership with the Kōkua Hawai‛i Foundation (founded by local musician Jack Johnson and his wife, Kim Johnson) and their ‛Āina in Schools program, which works with local schools to teach kids about gardening, food, and sustainability. We help them by volunteering at schools, making in-kind donation of ingredients for their lessons, and partnering on fundraising activities. They do amazing work and we love supporting them!


Please tell us someone’s gotten engaged in the cereal aisle. Details!

We haven’t had that yet, but we have had the pleasure of helping some pretty exciting guests. President Obama and his family spend their winter holiday in Kailua every year, and we were thrilled to have the White House Chef and his staff shop for their holiday meals with us. They never told us who they were, but we had done our homework and so we figured it out. A personal highlight for me was helping pick out some cheeses for the First Family’s Christmas dinner cheese course. When you work in the food world, it doesn’t get much better than helping to feed the President!

How does your store kick back?

Our team members have a very active interpretation of the term “leisure time.” On any given day, our team members are out hiking, surfing, paddling, snorkeling, cycling, swimming, and generally enjoying life in paradise! (And in case you were wondering…no, it never gets old.)

What else makes your store a “hidden gem”?

Being on an island in the middle of the ocean, local products are especially important and meaningful to us. Along with our sister store in Honolulu, we offer the best and widest selection of local items anywhere on the island! 40% of our fruits and vegetables are from local farms, and we have set a goal for ourselves to raise it to 50% in 2013.


Our little town of Kailua alone is home to two chocolate makers, a popsicle and syrup producer, and a soap and shampoo company, just to name a few. We have a fabulous set of local beers (including kegs), amazing Big Island macadamia nuts, Maui pickles and jams, local vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, Honolulu-made nougats and gelatos, and so much more.

We are the best place on Oahu to get the best local ingredients, support local farms, and even pick up gifts for friends on the Mainland.

Now that you know what makes our Kailua store shine in Hawaii – tell us: what makes your local store a hidden gem?

Share your comment below by Sunday, March 31 and you’ll be entered to win a $50 Whole Foods Market gift card. Enter once on each “hidden gems” blog post, running from March 20 – March 29, for more chances to win.

The fine print: No purchase necessary. Promotion ends 3/31/13, 11:59 PM CDT. Must be a legal resident of the US or Canada (except in Quebec, where it is void) age 18 or older to participate. Taxes on prize, if applicable, are the responsibility of the winner. Employees of Whole Foods Market, Inc., are not eligible. Void where prohibited.

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Belinda Abraham says …

A gem at my store are the handmade soaps called Hugo. There are so many to choose from, they smell great and you get to decide how much you want to take home. I wish I could buy a lot more than I do, because they smell so refreshing. They're made with natural ingredients and I know that I'm getting a good through clean with this natural soap.

Jen B says …

I love the yummy buy one/get one pizzas on the weekends that I can take home and bake in my oven!

Cimbria Peterson says …

I love how there ate many vegan options to get my latte. Not just the standard soy milk, but almond and rice milk as well. Thank you from my husband who is allergic to soy milk!

Camille Wood says …

I love the local produce and herbs!!

Greta says …

The people, the fresh, local fish and produce...cannot be beat!

Claire Lee says …

Love the fresh baked cranberry walnut bread at the Kailua Store.

Arjay says …

LOVE this store! The look and feel inside out is pretty awesome! Definitely a good place to get healthy food and to hang out with friends. FYI, They also have $5 pizza AND beer during happy hour. :)

Beki M. says …

I love how my local Whole Foods in Evanston has tons of products from nearby midwest farms. I also love that they offer discounts to students from the nearby university.

julie says …

I love the great produce and awesome sandwiches!

Stephanie Halford says …

My local store is the Kailua store and the best part about it is the amazing local produce selection. Living local, fresh and seasonal is the best!

jj says …

unexpected cookout contests! last saturday the staff rolled out several stations featuring different egg recipes, including an ostrich egg!

Caroline says …

Do you sell ahi poke at this store? I love ahi poke and I wish the whole foods near me would make it. (My favorite Hawaiian food memory!)

Ken says …

Portland- Can bring bags and plastic containers for recycling

roxana says …

I Love the many options on ready to eat food. I can have oriental food while my husband drools over the huge salad bar selections. It's a win win situation for both of us when we are hungry :)

Claudia R says …

I love the poke bar at my Whole Foods in Kailua, HI oh and the Ono Pops!!

Lisa says …

Il Gelato Hawaii is the biggest hidden gem at the Kailua store!

Debbie says …

I liked taking the tour and how to shop class Whole Foods offered. I've been a Whole Foods customer for years and learned so much I never knew about. Highly, highly recommend.

Leah Vanek says …

There are so many! Love the Happy Hour at the bar. $5.00 for a BIG slice of ONO pizza and a beer! Grab a friend, grab a slice and a pint, and find a table on the lanai. Its so relaxing and fun! The staff! Visit Danny at the coffee bar. He is always welcoming, friendly, and helpful! Try a sample spoon of the gelato and grab a coffee! Also, super friendy and helpful guy in the meat department. He helped me, a female, pick out the perfect steak and told me just how to prepare it without having a grill or knowing what I was doing. The dinner turned out great! Love the selection, the cleanliness, the friendliness, the activities, the samples and more! To top it off, I recently won a silent auction item there! $12 for a $267 Bodyfit Bootcamp month pass!

Stefano says …

Local Store "Hidden Gem" Factor: Organic Black Sphinx Dates.

Merilee Dodson says …

I am coming to Kauai in Feb to scope it out as a potential place to live. I am so happy to see that Whole foods is there. I will be seeking you out on my visit.

Touch of life says …

What kind of kalo (taro) is growing outside your kailua store? Is it a special native variety and is it edible? Where did you obtain it? What is the story behind it please? Thank you. DTSP

George says …

Do you carry -Rapunzel sesame sees oil? Thank you

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@GEORGE - Our products vary so check directly with the store you plan to shop with to make sure!

Rae Smith says …

I love having Whole Foods in Kailua. The salad bar is excellent!! Every Sunday, my family enjoys your buy one get one free deals on the take-home pizzas.

knowing it says …

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chris hill says …

I am looking to purchase some Asparagopsis taxiformis seaweed. Its eatable and a local dish is made from it. I am shopping around and its the first time I have been looking for this type of seaweed. Hope you can help

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CHRIS - Our exact products differ between stores. Check with your local store directly to see if they have this in stock!