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Poi By The Pound to stay open for two more weeks

Restaurant owners had planned to close Friday but pushed back date

Poi By The Pound specializes in Hawaiian and local dishes, including their homemade poi, pictured here with helpings of lomi salmon and chicken long rice. The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

A Kahului restaurant known for its homestyle Hawaiian food will stay open for two more weeks thanks to the requests of loyal customers and the business’ landlord.

Poi By The Pound had planned to close indefinitely Friday but will now keep cooking through Sept. 27.

“We’ve gotten a lot of requests from the customers, a lot of love,” Manager Leialoha Ah Nee-Salvador said Friday afternoon. “They’ve asked us to stay open. Our landlord has asked us to stay open. So we’re just trying to stretch it as long as we possibly can.”

Poi By The Pound is the latest in a line of local businesses that have had to fold amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Located next to the Acura of Maui dealership, the restaurant is a short hop away from Da Kitchen, another local eatery that had to close in July.

Ah Nee-Salvador, daughter of Poi By The Pound owners Clarance Hookano and Rochelle Kemfort, said that their restaurant closed in March at the start of the pandemic. They reopened in June for takeout and about two weeks later resumed dine-in service. Adjusting to the new rules and the loss of customers, however, has been tough, and business has fallen about 75 percent.

Poi By The Pound will stay open another two weeks at the request of customers and the business’ landlord, according to the restaurant’s manager. The Kahului eatery had planned to close Friday but will operate through Sept. 27. The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

“It was a lot harder, new rules, people trying to get adjusted to it, workers constantly trying to keep everything sanitized,” she said.

Ah Nee-Salvador said that the restaurant also lost some bigger parties who wanted to come in and eat together but had to be separated due to social distancing rules.

Over the past decade, Ah Nee-Salvador has watched her parents build the business from the ground up. They started out selling poi and lau lau door to door and began getting requests to cater that eventually led to them opening the restaurant in 2011. Ah Nee-Salvador, who loves to cook, said it’s been “an amazing experience” and is sad to see it come to an end.

“We put a lot into building this company, and to see it possibly close and maybe never open again is a really scary thought,” she said.

Kahului resident Susan Ricardos, who was picking up an order Friday, said she was a fan of the restaurant’s lau lau and hamburger steak.

Bags of takeout orders await customers at the entrance of Poi By The Pound on Friday afternoon. The restaurant reopened in June for takeout and later resumed dining in. The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

“When you’re looking for the best lau lau, Poi By The Pound is the only one who sells lau lau out here,” she said.

Ricardos, whose husband works for a hotel and has been on unemployment, said “it’s sad for everybody” to see local businesses shutting their doors.

David Daunhauer, also of Kahului, said he comes to Poi By The Pound at least once a month.

“There’s not too many places on Maui where you can get really good local food,” he said. “Good service, nice people. We like the Hawaiian plate and the kalbi plate, and of course the squid luau is really good.”

Daunhauer said he’s been to many big box stores where customers have not been social distancing and was sad to see the closure of smaller businesses that have been working hard to follow strict rules.

“The smaller businesses, eateries especially, have to abide by these strict laws and stuff, which is good to keep everybody safe, but it’s just killing the local eateries,” he said.

Ah Nee-Salvador said that if things start to reopen again, then Poi By The Pound could possibly make a comeback. If not, they may have to stay closed.

“We’re hoping maybe in the future we can reopen, but for now we’re just going to try and wait it out and see how it goes,” she said.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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