Creative Coffee Shop R&D Opens in Kakaako

The Idea Factory: R&D isn’t just a coffee shop—this new Kakaako space aims to inspire.

Photo: Matt Mallams

Thoreau had the woods, Warhol, his factory. But where can Hawaii artists, designers and visionaries go to explore their creativity? To problem solve across disciplines, as Frida Kahlo could have met with Le Corbusier over coffee?

Enter R&D. In October, local arts organization Interisland Terminal opened this new creative space in Kakaako, specifically devoted to networking and collaboration. Think of it as a creativity incubator.

Unlike coffee shops and libraries, where everyone keeps their eyes on their own screens, R&D wants users to work publicly—to engage a fellow creative, thrust a crumpled concept across the community table and hope it comes back repurposed and elevated. “We’ll have power and wi-fi so that people can work, but the idea is not to camp out,” says Benjamin Trevino, of Interisland Terminal. “We’d like there to be an element where you can really punch through that wall because you’ve gotten some creative stimuli.”

photo: thinkstock

R&D’s physical space is a blank slate by design, with simple community tables and book cubbies that dismantle into horizontal seats or vertical stools, like grown-up building blocks.

As catalysts for inspiration, there will be Stumptown coffee, served up by brew master Eric Rose, and a carefully curated selection of books, covering contemporary art, design, architecture and Hawaii-interest titles. You may not go to R&D looking for something specific, but might find something interesting anyway while browsing.

“It’s presumptuous to think people just come to our space and are always having breakthroughs,” says Trevino. “But it’s a way to cross paths with different ideas more … We think people will be able to derive inspiration from the other people there.”

There are also plans to bring in experts in various fields. “They’ll sit under a sign—like Lucy’s ‘The Doctor Is In’ sign—so that people can just come up and ask them questions,” he says.

R&D expanded to a full schedule last month, and it’s already attracting collaboration-hungry fans. John Whitaker, a co-organizer of Pecha Kucha and a project coordinator at MGA Architecture, says, “I’m looking forward to R&D being a place to attend events and lectures to inspire my own creativity while also connecting me with other creatives around town.”

R&D, 691 Auahi St., Tuesday-Friday 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday 12-5 p.m.,