“Out of adversity comes opportunity.” -Benjamin Franklin
Written by: Terra McGinnis, KualoaGrown Team Member
This infamous and historic pandemic is changing the way we view our everyday lives ranging from hygiene to business practices, health, safety, and so much more. While businesses closed, Kualoa Ranch was not totally immune to this reality as tourism in Hawai’i came to a dead halt and our tour operations were forced to shut down for 77 days as we focused on the health of our community and nation as a whole. Despite the closure of tourism at Kualoa Ranch, we knew that now was the time for KualoaGrown — our agriculture, aquaculture and ranching sector — to rise to the occasion. We had an opportunity to provide food security to the local community given the diverse range of produce and proteins grown right here on the Ranch. Within one week of closing our tourism operations, our drive-through Friday Markets were born. We started with a simple email to Kualoa Ranch staff members offering pre-order options for pick up and fulfilled 60 orders our first week. Within nine weeks, the KualoaGrown drive-through market became a resounding success fulfilling as many as 180 orders a week and our simple email to staff turned into a full-blown newsletter that allowed us to reach out to the community in a way KualoaGrown never has before.
Despite the popularity of our Friday Markets, we knew that they had an expiration date as life started to open up again and our drive-through operations simply weren’t sustainable. On May 29, 2020, we announced that our Friday Markets would be discontinued as we worked to build a new market for our customers who had become so supportive and dedicated over the last nine weeks. Within those two weeks, we put together the infrastructure for our new KualoaGrown Market – a dream and goal of our KualoaGrown sector.
If we rewind to pre-COVID, KualoaGrown was represented in a small corner of our Visitor Center – it’s lack of visibility and size made it difficult for KualoaGrown to be a hub for the local community. While it provided an opportunity to showcase what we grow on the ranch, the location simply didn’t do KualoaGrown justice. We hoped that someday we would have our own space to really boast our expansive selection of products, but with the importance of tourism to Kualoa Ranch we knew that it would take time and patience… Little did we know the new realities of the world would accelerate that long-term goal.
Our Friday Markets gave us the customer base we needed to validate the opening of our own KualoaGrown space where both local customers and guests could shop freely – with a personal shopper and maintaining social distances of 6 feet of course. We moved our KualoaGrown operation to the Ranch House which was originally used for guest buffets and turned it into a mini, specialty grocery store where we could provide for local community members AND show guests what we’re all about. The Ranch House now has fully stocked fridges, a freezer, a fruit stand, fruit and informational display tables, and a cash register. KualoaGrown proudly offers fruits, vegetables, 100% grass-fed beef, locally raised pork, oysters, shrimp, flowers, value-added products (including chocolate, ‘olena salts, and cacao tea), partner farm products, and MORE!
HOW IT WORKS
Now that COVID is here and part of our everyday lives for the foreseeable future, we wanted to provide a shopping experience that makes customers feel safe, comfortable, and valued. Our mission at KualoaGrown is to “provide our island community and visitors with fresh, locally grown, and responsibly raised food while working to preserve the natural beauty of Kualoa Ranch” and our market embodies that mission. As a brand that offers so much diversity in its products, KualoaGrown is a rarity in the world of farming and we believe that we can be a one-stop-shop for many members within the local community. With the newsletter we developed, the increased following of @kualoagrown on Instagram, and a dedicated KualoaGrown email, we now have the platform necessary to provide resources to our customers about product offerings and availability every week. Three key factors play a vital role in the success of our market operation including our diverse product availability, providing a COVID-safe environment for customers, and creating a loyal membership base.
Through our experience, we found that an integral part of our market success is customer knowledge – meaning that our customers like knowing what products are being offered before they visit the market. Being more informed helps them make the most of their trip whether they are coming from near or far. We’ve utilized our new, dedicated customer base via newsletter, Instagram, and email to provide the most up to date information as possible. Every Monday we send a KualoaGrown newsletter with information about product availability, partnerships, featured products, market logistics, and more. Our Instagram works in conjunction with our newsletter by providing stock updates on popular products throughout the week along with fun facts about what we grow right here at Kualoa Ranch. We also created a KualoaGrown email so that customers have direct access to our team for any information or help they may need. We’re proud to have created a more direct line of communication with our customers through these avenues, and giving them information from the voice of our KualoaGrown team themselves and we hope to continue providing this top of the line customer service.
In order to be as COVID-safe as possible, we developed an innovative, hands-off shopping experience along with a health screen before entering the market. Each customer that walks through our market fills out their contact information and completes a quick health screen to check that they are healthy enough to shop. While in the market, customers shop at a six-foot distance with their own personal shopper — a Kualoa staff member who is geared in proper COVID personal protective equipment (PPE). By creating a personal shopping experience, public contact is limited and our knowledgeable staff are a resource of information for our customers any time they visit the market. All of our equipment is sanitized at the beginning and end of every day as well as throughout the day with a specialized COVID-specific disinfectant. It’s our due diligence to follow these protocols so that we limit the level of risk with each person that enters our market.
KualoaGrown is more than just a brand – it’s an ‘ohana and we do our best to make sure our customers know that they are part of it. Each person that shops at our KualoaGrown Market is given the opportunity to sign up for a free membership card that assigns contact information to a specific number which makes the check in process easier for our loyal customers. We strive to make our customers feel valued by providing the informational tools, safer shopping environment, convenience, and the spirit of ‘ohana that they need in deciding to shop KualoaGrown.
This experience has been a wild ride for us all and there have been many uphill battles throughout this pandemic, but we are grateful for and humbled with the opportunity to positively impact our local community during this time of need. The outpouring of love and support we have received has been greater than we could have imagined and we want to continue giving it back in more ways than one. We’re excited for what the future holds for KualoaGrown and will continue to provide high quality, responsibly-raised, local food to the community and visitors as it is our top priority.