How long have you been doing this?
I started Via Gelato in 2011 out of a food truck, and brought a cart to a few farmer's markets. That kept me very busy in the first year of business, and luckily we were successful and gained a strong following. So in 2012 I closed the truck and stopped doing farmers markets, and opened Via Gelato Kaimuki in 2013.
What is the story behind Via Gelato?
I grew up in Hawaii and left after high school for college and work. It took being away from here to realize just how special Hawaii is and how much I missed it; there really is no place else like it in terms of the mix of foods and cultures we have here, not to mention the awesome climate and beautiful landscape. I grew up in a very cost-conscious family, which isn’t that unique here in Hawaii since it's so expensive to live here! When I returned home, I wanted to use my talents with food in a business that doesn't cater to a select few wealthy people. Instead, I wanted to start a business dedicated to offering thoughtful gelato flavors of high quality, at a price point that any customer could afford, while still being able to pay our employees well. We were also the first ice cream shop to make flavors that resonate with our unique local mix of Asian and Hawaiian food cultures. Via Gelato is about bringing joy to our community year after year, and doing so in a way that is unique to Hawaii.
Where do you see Via Gelato in a few years?
I would love to see Via Kaimuki still inspiring people and serving lines of customers eager to share the joy of what we make with each other. I've noticed that Hawaii has a select few restaurants and eateries that sustain interest past that initial hype and trend of being new. We're definitely not new anymore, but I would love to see us remain a Kaimuki institution for decades to come.
Do you remember the Pizza Hut, Book it program? I would love to do something similar with Via where kids get rewarded not just for reading books, but for exploring different interests like art, science, nature, math, technology. Our program would be similar to boy scout or girl scout badges. However, instead of badges, kids would demonstrate initiative and persistence in an interest, log in a certain number of goals, then celebrate with a well earned free gelato. I loved the feeling of being independent and accomplished when I was a kid, and I'm sure kids today would love that too.
In other areas of Via, maybe I might want to expand the business into doing more catering or wholesale.
What do you love about Kaimuki?
I picked Kaimuki for it's neighborhood feel. We actually have very few neighborhoods on Oahu where people can live, walk, shop and eat. I've always enjoyed being able to explore so many different shops in Kaimuki. I also love how the neighborhood is down to earth. There's no pretentiousness about this neighborhood.
Where do you see Kaimuki in 5 years?
I would love to help make Kaimuki a more visually enticing neighborhood to walk around and hang out in. There have been huge efforts recently towards that with all the painting of public walls and boxes. The sidewalks could look really inviting with some potted ferns, greens or even flowers hanging from the lampposts. I'd love to see Kaimuki park taken better care of. as well. So many people live in this area, but somehow the park has a derelict sort of feel to it. The park in my neighborhood of Makiki is much larger, but the grass is more cared for and I love being a part of the community garden. A community garden or even just a shared space to grow flowers could inject some life into the surrounding area.