Spiral Gallery Cafe stirs up community bolstering in Nalo Town

Colleen Sanders

WAIMANALO—There’s a new business on the main drag of Waimanalo, nestled into the orange-faced building west north of Keneke’s, called Spiral Gallery Cafe. The building was most recently used as artist Ogden Meyer’s studio, The Way of The Artful Mind, but it recently took on a new partnership with Spiral owner Cassandra Rockwood-Rice. Now, the building houses both Meyers’ studio and the new Spiral Gallery Cafe, which is a coffeeshop, internet cafe, kitchen, artist co-op, and aspiring community hub.

“I’ve been forming the idea of a gallery-cafe for years,” said Rockwood-Rice. After moving here in 2003 with her young daughter, she began talking with other mothers in the community and noticed a consensus need for “a family place—a place people can hang out, be inspired,” Rockwood Rice said. “I don’t think there can ever be enough little shops, cafes, things to do. There’s definitely already a beautiful atmosphere here not inundated with corporate stuff.”

The Cafe officially opened its doors on December 4, 2009 with a full coffee bar of meticulously-screened local beans and vegetarian menu of food items for the whole day, including desserts, snacks, and juice. Perhaps one of the strongest driving forces, and distinguishing, behind the Cafe, however, is its philosophy built into the 16-page business plan Rockwood-Rice founded it on.

The business plan’s mission includes aspects of community bolstering, be it economically by buying local, artistically by supporting emerging artists, or socially by providing a space encouraging of positive lifestyles.

“When there is not enough stuff for people to do, anti-social behaviors crop up,” said Rockwood-Rice. “Being a mom, deciding to raise my daughter here, I felt I had to do something.”

On the one hand, locally grown ingredients support the local economy as well as healthy eating. “I try to buy from as many local gardens as possible,” she said. “I want to keep the home-grown feel going, even though it’s making it more expensive to keep going. It’s important to keep the money here.”

Nutrition and a health-conscious diet form the backdrop for the cafe’s menu options, being all vegetarian.

“We want to encourage healthy habits, discourage diabetes,” Rockwood-Rice said. “We’ve gotten some people who walk in the door [that] say, ‘What? You don’t serve meat?’ then walk out as if we were a disease.”

Aware of her status as the sole veggie-protein outlet in the entire community, and multiple communities on either side, Rockwood-Rice does not seem discouraged. She sees Waimanalo, with its bountiful agricultural land and natural beauty, as a long-time-coming center for veggie wellness.

Also, the space is high-ceilinged and roomy, with walls covered in diverse original artworks. Because Spiral is an artist co-op, local emerging artists pay a fee to exhibit their work there and use the space as a gathering grounds. Every second Sunday, Spiral hosts an artist showcase from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., where the artists set up booths and do demonstrations for the public, while selling their pieces at discount prices.

There are also two high-speed internet stations available, and wi-fi is free with purchase. They hold an open mic every Sunday afternoon from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. “We’ve had a lot of fun jam sessions,” she said.

As time goes on, Spiral hopes to engage further with the community and become somewhat of a hub for an exchange of ideas.

“We would like to make partnerships now,” Rockwood-Rice said. “We have a lot of space on the building with potential for murals. ... We are permitted for a second floor.”

Rockwood-Rice shared a handful of ideas for the future, including partnering with non-profits, working with schools, creating a raw food shelf, keeping a nutritionist on staff, having a health food store open a stand, opening a book store, and working with agricultural associations.

Despite opening up in a recession, in a small town blocked off by regular road closures at Makapuu, Rockwood-Rice reported that business is good.

“It’s better than I expected,” she said. “It’s been erratic at first. Right now, we’re just getting established ... growing mostly by word-of-mouth. I want to affect the community in a positive way, to reach out. And who doesn’t like to come to a cafe, write postcards, look at art?”

Spiral Gallery Cafe
41-863 Kalanianaole Highway, Suite 2
Waimanalo, HI, 96795
(808) 259-LOVE
[email protected]
Monday - Saturday 7:00a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Sundays 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Ogden Meyers