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Palama Holdings offers bulk sales to community during COVID-19

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Judy McDonald, CEO of H&W Foodservice, looks over stacks of dry goods at the H&W warehouse in Kapolei. Once sold only to restaurants and commercial kitchens, many items are now available to the public.

    JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Judy McDonald, CEO of H&W Foodservice, looks over stacks of dry goods at the H&W warehouse in Kapolei. Once sold only to restaurants and commercial kitchens, many items are now available to the public.

Restaurants, said Judy McDonald, are the “face” of the food industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through empty dining rooms and permanent closures, the public witnesses their struggle.

“But people don’t realize how many businesses come behind the restaurants,” said McDonald, the chief executive officer of Palama Holdings. The company runs two divisions, Palama Meat and H&W Foodservice.

H&W distributes food to such businesses as restaurants, care homes and golf courses. When these businesses can’t operate, distributors can’t move their inventory.

“If they struggle, we struggle,” she said, adding that in turn, H&W’s suppliers are hit hard as well.

But the company has found a way to ease the challenges of the pandemic along its business chain, of employees, suppliers and the community. It has created, if not a total win-win-win-win, at least a better situation, four ways.

The key is moving inventory. So the company began opening bulk food sales to the public.

“We have a warehouse filled with food, and we get that food out to the community,” she said.

Retail sales may be different work for H&W, but they still require staff and orders to suppliers, and they generate income for the company.

Items vary, but most sales include various kinds of protein, much of it from Palama Meat. A sampling: 5 pounds of boneless short ribs recently cost $44; 5 pounds of ground beef, $21; a 2-pound bag of shrimp, $14.

A wide variety of other foods are also often available, from frozen veggies to canned and baked goods, sauces, juices, desserts, and even kitchen and sanitizing supplies. Recently, a 2-pound bag of frozen vegetables cost $8; a loaf of King’s Hawaiian Sweet Bread, $5; 10-pound can of tomato sauce, $6; 1 gallon shoyu, $12; 1 gallon hand sanitizer, $45.

The company holds three sales weekly out of its warehouse in Kapolei and a few more monthly across Oahu. Some involve area nonprofits, like a sale in Laie that allows organizations to make a little bit of money. Others are just a way to get food in the hands of the public.

“The response has been amazing,” McDonald said.

A sale at Dole Plantation in Wahi­awa in June, for instance, moved about 500 cases of product.

McDonald believes success comes down to two things: safety and value.

“We have a drive-thru, no-touch system, and food is reasonably priced.”

Protocol for sales varies slightly by location. At Dole Plantation, customers place orders and pay on-site. Warehouse sales require preordering and prepaying online. A recent sale in Kakaako involved online ordering and cash-only payment at pickup.

What doesn’t change is that customers never leave their cars, and workers in personal protective equipment follow safety guidelines as they pack and then place purchases in vehicles.

The bottom line is the sales help everyone involved, and McDonald said she expects to continue them “for the foreseeable future — three to four months at least.”

“Business is down 40% to 50%. These sales are a little more than a drop in the bucket. They make up for about 10%,” she said. “But they move inventory and allow us to continue to work with our suppliers. They keep employees employed.”


H&W Foodservice pickups run 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the warehouse, 2029 Lauwiliwili St. in Kapolei. Items must be preordered and prepaid. Go to hwfoodservice.com and click on “Friends and Family Sale.” For information on other sales in the community, click on “News and Events.”


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