Surviving the first year for a young business is a big milestone that marked Friday with specials and a live band.
The Hartland coffee shop offers a mix of free Internet, Michigan-made products while promoting the local community and live music — a formula that's found a niche, customers and even one rival says.
For co-owner Cathy Jones of Hartland — who before opening the business had lost a job where she had worked for 15 years — it was about the timing.
"My youngest daughter and I had wanted to open a business together and Kahuna just happened at the right time or as I like to think, it was part of God's plan. My son-in-law, daughter and I went for it," Jones said.
Surviving in a tough economy
The challenge Jones and her family would not be easy. The location they picked had at several previous owners and had been closed for two years, but Jones said the key to generating enough business would be to broaden the base by appealing to families and musicians. In this next year, she plans to add healthier menu choices such as gluten free and organic products as well as more Michigan-made products in the store while encouraging even more family-focused events and live entertainment.
"We have given some of our local talents, young and old, a place to come and share their gift of music," Jones said. "We encourage families to come and spend time together here, especially when we have live music."
Jeff Risch, who owns nearby and , said he respects Jones as a competitor in a tough economy that's only become more competitive with larger increases in the price of coffee and the recent additions of a and a .
"(She's) trying to promote the music. That what's been her success, especially now for coffee shops it's really hard to survive," said Risch, adding that the area likely will need to see more growth to support all the businesses.
Patrons, like Gina Vizzini of Hartland, said the music provides a unique atmosphere that's a good alternative to the bar scene.
"I was here a couple of weeks ago. I just came up here by myself because it was close by and it was so much fun I told my friends about it and I have six people coming to join me tonight," Vizzini said. "It's nice to sit back and relax, enjoy the music, sip on some tea … they have some good sandwiches, salads and things."
Musicians, too, say they appreciate the opportunity to play.
"We try to do 80 or 90 percent of our own stuff," said Gary Weisenburg, a member of the blues, jazz, and rock group, Project 9, which performed Friday. "Here's a place to pursue music for the art's sake and that's great."
Other customers come for the relaxed atmosphere that's easy to work in. Mark Roberts, an information technology worker for Ford who lives in Hartland, said he sometimes uses the shop to work instead of commuting to Dearborn.
"There's a high quality of service and staff-friendliness that she sets the tone for that really has moved the shop to the next level of quality," Roberts said.
Working during the day, Roberts also sees how Kahuna promotes local small businesses by providing a place for people to meet and displaying their information.
"She goes out her way to encourage other small businesses," Roberts said.
That business outreach earned Jones the Hartland Area Chamber of Commerce's chamber member of the year award in 2010.
"Cathy and (her) staff are very warm and welcoming to everyone who enters her establishment," said Jana Warford, the chamber's director, in an email to Hartland Patch. "I hope businesses and individuals both nearby and far away will continue to support her endeavors. She is a gem in our community."
Jones said the honor was a surprise for an frame of mind that should be second nature to everyone.
"I feel very honored but believe we all should pull together and do what we can to make our community a welcoming place for everyone," said Jones. "We should take care of each other, support each other, etc. Also, we do it because we believe in it. It was a nice honor, it means that we have a wonderful giving community."