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Foodland Farms debuts newest location in Kapolei

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                                Braised short ribs at the Mahi’ai Market at Kapolei Foodland Farms.


    Braised short ribs at the Mahi’ai Market at Kapolei Foodland Farms.

Used to be, a long line outside a brand-new store was a sign of success.

These days it’s cause for alarm.

So the newest Foodland Farms opens in Kapolei today with a unique entry system in place — online reservations to get into a grocery store.

As of Tuesday, nearly 700 reservations had been made for opening day, filling all the available slots, Foodland spokeswoman Sheryl Toda said. Reservations for the days to follow are quickly filling as well, she said.

Coronavirus precautions mean the number of shoppers at any one time is limited to 75, with masks required and temperature checks at the door. Some walk-ins will be allowed, but they’ll have to stand in line, and the company hopes the reservation system will keep that imagery to a minimum.

“We had to adapt and had to almost reinvent ourselves,” said Keoni Chang, Foodland’s corporate food officer.

The new store is in The Grove, an appendage to Ka Makana Ali‘i mall, just over a mile away from an older Foodland in Kapolei and about 2 miles from one in Ewa Beach. If you drove for about 10 minutes you could pass by all three.

The difference is this store bears the moniker of Foodland Farms, a more upscale model of a supermarket, with expanded prepared foods offered in a food court-like setting.

This Foodland Farms is further distinguished by an in-market full-service restaurant, Mahi ‘ai Table. (Other Foodland Farms — in Ala Moana Center and Pearl City — have bars.)

Each Foodland Farms store takes on an identity and this one, Chang said, would focus on wellness and natural foods. Key product lines will emphasize Paleo, keto, gluten-free and vegan eating, he said, and there will be a greater variety of local, organic produce. “The trade-off is maybe we won’t have the variety in shoyu, we won’t have the variety in Spam,” he said. “We’ll have Spam here, but not 15 varieties.”

Another concession to COVID-19: What would have been self-serve hot and cold bars have been converted to “convenience stations.”

Selections include prepared entrees and sides, meal kits (for example, Korean street tacos) and items to help kick-start cooking at home, such as sauces, marinades, spice mixes, dressings and stocks. “Sometimes it takes 25 ingredients to make one thing,” Chang said of these pantry potions, “so you don’t have to worry about that.”

Many selections are exclusive to this location out of Foodland’s 33 stores. Chang describes them as “take-and-cook, take-and-bake, take-and-heat.”

Like all Foodlands, this one will have a poke station, but unlike the others, the Kapolei store is committed to fresh ahi, not frozen. Also new here is a build-your-own bowl station with selections of proteins and vegetables that can be piled atop greens or grains.

It is the restaurant, though, that is the major addition.

Chef Jonathan Donohue oversees a menu keyed to the word “mahi ai,” Hawaiian for farming, that emphasizes connections to local producers such as Mari’s Gardens, Pono Pork and Sweet Land Farm.

A taste: vanilla custard French toast with Maui pineapple (breakfast), Korean shakshuka (weekend brunch), Manila clam pizza (lunch), garlic-chive gnocchi with Kauai prawns (dinner). Craft cocktails and mocktails are offered with every meal, even breakfast.

The Kapolei market is the fourth Foodland Farms and continues a rapid expansion of the brand as the company revamps or replaces older stores. The next will be in Kahala’s new Kuono Marketplace, opening this fall not far from the Kahala Mall Whole Foods Market.

The two Kapolei stores, though, will always have special meaning for Chang. The original Kapolei Foodland opened Oct. 16, 2012, a date Chang has committed to memory because it was the day his son was born. Today’s opening should also stick, he said. It’s July 15, “which is my anniversary.”


The store opens at 10 a.m. today at The Grove at Ka Makana Ali‘i mall in Kapolei:

>> Regular hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily; Mahi ‘ai Table restaurant open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily

>> Reservations: (store); (restaurant)

>> Call: 670-2770 (store); 670-2778 (restaurant)

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