Last week marked the opening of a year-long dream come true: to open a mercantile for the locals and visitors of Kaua’i - a place to stop and pick up their weekly beef orders, and more.
Since COVID hit, I had to rethink the operation of the business. The weekly farmers’ market was shut down, and soon after, the Big Red Barn that I brought my fresh meats to was shut down as well. I then turned an old storage room into a meat pick-up area for customers to come to me directly. Although it worked extremely well and everyone loved it - it wasn’t convenient, nor was it sustainable. I quickly realized I needed another location where people could come directly to me to pick up their orders at their leisure.
I didn’t want to call it a "farm store" because I think of ourselves as more of a "ranch"- but then, "ranch store" sounded weird... And then, it came to me. I decided to name it Minnie’s to honor the legacy of my great-grandmother – Minnie Andrade.
You see, I am a lover of old things, and so I love to browse old mercantiles. One of my favorite things to do is travel to old towns that have lots of Western history. It always disappoints me that they can be an old cow town with no local beef. I want to be able to make that real here in Kaua’i!
So, I decided to put up Minnie’s Mercantile. I envisioned a fruit stand like people have around the island - but instead it will be a meat stand with all of our popular cuts of fresh dry-aged beef steaks, and some other natural beef products such as bone broth, tallow soap, tallow body balm and tallow lotion.
For a long while, I had so many requests to come and visit the ranch in person. Well, since it is not the location of our actual ranch (it’s where we pack our meat) Minnie’s Mercantile provides the perfect place to visit and see all of our products.
I made friends with the farmers at the Big Red Barn, and invited them to come sell their fresh organic produce at Minnie’s - so there are more options to choose from!
Minnie was my sweet Great-grandmother and I guess because I work on her property every day next to her old house she is always in my thoughts. I often base the decisions I make on what I think she would like and be happy to see.
She was born on June 6, 1902 in Lahaina, Maui and moved to Kaua’i in 1906 after her father was tragically killed moving a heavy iron stove. He died at the young age of 41 leaving behind his six young children and wife who was two months pregnant. An Aunt and Uncle who lived in Kalaheo, Kaua’i offered help, so she sold their property and moved to Kaua’i.
Minnie’s oldest brother, Olin, went to work at 12 years old to support the family. Back then education was a privilege, and although Minnie was fond of attending school, she had to quit after completing the 7th grade so she could work and help out the family. She worked as a housemaid for the Creevy family and they loved her and treated her as their own. I remember her telling me of this family she worked for. She loved the family and they loved her as she helped the family care for the children. They loved her so much they wanted to adopt her and have her continue her education. Her mother refused without hesitation.
Minnie said she would walk to work and as she would get near to the home, the children would come running down the driveway toward her yelling, “Aikane Aikane!,” meaning “Friend.” She told me it was a name the cook gave her.
In those days Kalaheo was dirt roads and pineapples. To earn extra money my ambitious Great-grandpa Manuel would travel house to house peddling his fresh cuts of meat from his ranch. He soon met Minnie after knocking on her door. They were Married on February 9, 1918. She was fifteen years old at the time but her mother encouraged her daughters to marry young to help lessen her hardship. Minnie was a housewife but also worked as a Forelady for the Kauai Pine Co. Pineapple Cannery in Lawai.
Minnie and Manuel had six children; Manuel, Joseph, Beatrice, Antone, Alfred, and Margaret. While having his ranch, for a time Great-grandpa Manuel lived in Waialae and was the man responsible for building the Waialae House and building the fence-line that borders the state land from the Robinson land. About 25 years after that my dad rebuilt the same fence-line.
Times were hard during the great depression and President Roosevelt started the CCC Corps. Great-grandpa was selected to be in charge because he was born and raised in Pupukuniau. The mountains were his natural home.
The CCC was a natural relief program to provide work when there was none. Nevah had food stamps, SNAP or EBT and no one expected a free ride. He’d lead his men (all who were grateful for the work) into the forest to perform many environmental projects like planting trees to prevent erosion, eradicating invasive plants and species like cattle out of the forest reserve.
On the weekends Great-grandma Minnie and their children would ride up (5-6 hours one way on horseback) Waialae mountain to meet Great-grandpa and spend the weekend. These were cherished moments and Minnie would always remember this time in her life. I remember her telling her stories, and she’d always make me feel special when she’d say I was a blondie like her.
Great-grandma Minnie was a great cook, making our famous Portuguese sausage, breads, and also soaps from tallow. I remember in her home she always had candles burning and dessert in the oven. She used to tell me pink was her favorite color. She would comment on my long legs and long fingers. She’d say, “You should be a ballerina,” or “You should play piano with your long fingers.” This would make me politely smile with an agreeable nod, but I was more interested in what my dad and older brothers were doing outside.
And now here I am, among other things, making sure that her legacy remains prosperous, through Minnie’s Mercantile. It sits on her old property, and I always remember her fondly. I am so proud to bring Minnie’s Mercantile to life and to share that part of our history with the locals and our very long extended family who may one day want to come “home” and learn more about the hardworking, humble, honorable people they came from.
Minnie’s is located right off the main highway that cuts right through Kalaheo town. If you blink you will pass it. We are open Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. so come visit us and see for yourself what this dream come true really means to me!