Experience Old Lā‘ie at the New Hukilau Marketplace
A new Lā‘ie marketplace strives for a nostalgic feel.
Photo: Courtesy of Polynesian Cultural Center
Lā‘ie is about as country as country gets on O‘ahu. But it’s worlds away from how it looked “back in the day.” Then, drowsy North Shore plantation-era mom-and-pop shops, including Goo’s Old Plantation Store and Lā‘ie Credit & Carry, lined the streets. They’re long gone, but you can see a little of that spirit coming back in the new Hukilau Marketplace at Polynesian Cultural Center.
Just a little. The new mini-complex of shops and restaurants is built to look just like old Lā‘ie, down to the jukebox in front of the general store, but it’s closer to a Hawai‘i version of Disneyland’s Main Street, an endearing—if small-kine manufactured—ode to a bygone era that’s still firmly a corporate venture.
Unsurprisingly, some members of the community remain wary. Neighborhood board member Creighton Mattoon says, “This is one part of an overall pattern of expansion that numerous community associations and neighborhood board members have taken positions against.”
While the Marketplace was built on PCC-owned property, not newly acquired land, some see the project as emblematic of a potentially citified, tourist-dominated future that will end the town’s sweet country vibe.
That said, kama‘āina who can get beyond that will find a lot to love about the new setup.
Local establishments at the marketplace include Lā‘ie-founded custom surfboard brand Jaceboards and kahuku.org, Kahuku High School’s nonprofit that focuses on providing business opportunities for students. There will also be Hapa Home for Island-inspired furnishings, Nona’s Tropical Threads, and Basin, a Mainland-based bath-and-beauty retailer that’s getting interior decorating TLC from designer Sig Zane himself.
The place isn’t quite bursting with small-batch, handmade, Hawai‘i creations from local artisans, but you will find larger local brands, such as Bubble Shack Hawai‘i, Kāhala Sportswear and Nā Hōkū, as well as local treats, from Anahola Granola to Kīlauea Fire Barbecue Sauce.
The Marketplace shines brightest when it comes to food. Local eatery Tita's Grill cooks up kalbi, loco moco and burgers, while Baguette Shack will serve caprese and pork-belly baguette sandwiches. Family-friendly sit-down restaurant Pounders is headed by Sean Priester (formerly of Soul Patrol) and serves dishes that include gourmet pizzas and salads, while Aunty Emily's Polynesian Bakery carries goodies that are hard to find elsewhere on O‘ahu: Think panipopo, a Samoan coconut-milk dessert, and croissants with a tropical fruit twist.