Hawaii Kai businesses still benefit from Obama's visit - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii Kai businesses still benefit from Obama's visit

Suzanne Wright Suzanne Wright
Mike and Susan Gross Mike and Susan Gross
Sabina Yi Sabina Yi

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HAWAII KAI (KHNL) -  When President Barack Obama visited Hawaii last month, one of the most memorable moments was his stop at the Koko Marina Center in Hawaii Kai.  He and his family ate lunch,  and made time for some shave ice, drawing huge crowds.

Koko Marina was very calm midday Tuesday, and there were far less people than a month ago, when the president stopped by with his family.  But we found some nuggets of gold, and talked to people who gave us food for thought.

When President Obama visited Hawaii last month, he drew huge crowds at places like the Koko Marina Center in Hawaii Kai.  Suzanne Wright's daughter was there.

"About two minutes after she left, she called and she goes, ‘Okay mom. Guess who's at Koko Marina?'  And I said, ‘I know!'  She says, ‘C'mon on!'" said Wright, a longtime Hawaii Kai resident.  "So I went upstairs and put my Obama shirt on, combed my lipstick on, combed my hair and ran down."

Wright was among hundreds gathered to shake the next president's hand, the hand that would soon hold a customized sandwich.

"Actually can you melt the cheese on that?" asked President Obama, when he visited a Hawaii Kai restaurant on December 27, 2008.  "Can you make like tuna melt? With cheddar cheese?  That would be perfect."

Mike and Susan Gross are visiting from Ocean City, New Jersey.  They watched the inauguration in the morning, and decided to retrace Obama's culinary stops.  They had the tuna melt with cheddar cheese, the same as Obama.

"How was it?" asked KHNL.

"Excellent," they replied.  "The sandwich was wonderful. Great, tasty treat. That was really good. That was wonderful!"

Obama's next stop was dessert.

"Anybody who wants shave ice, the place right here, Kononuts," he told reporters. "Excellent shave ice. Save your appetites. You don't really need to write all that down."

He walked up the counter to order for his entire group.

"You want three?" he asked one of his daughters.  "Three. You sure? You can eat all that?"

"We are very honored to serve him shave ice," said Sabina Yi, the owner of Kokonuts Shave Ice.  "He ordered for his staff and daughters and friends."

After he got his shave ice, he sat down right here with his family. His pick?  Lemon/lime and cherry, and now Koconuts are planning to name it the "Obama shave ice."  Mmm.  Good.

Mike and Susan Gross also made Kokonuts their next stop and ate at the exact same table.

"It's like you're sitting and watching history at the same time," said Mike Gross, a retired U.S. Navy commander.

Locals say he brings our aloha spirit to the White House and is sharing it with the world.

"Now that the hope is there for our country to be what it was meant to be," said Wright.

And that sense of hope spreads to folks visiting our islands.

"You can see it in his demeanor that he projects, like inclusiveness, respect and patience," said Susan Gross.

"I think we're all wishing and praying that he his successful because if he is successful, we're successful," added Mike Gross.

Kokonuts has seen about a 20 percent increase in business since Obama stopped by last month.  They also get a lot of people wanting to take a picture of the place where he enjoyed his shave ice.

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