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by Kaylee Noborikawa, staff writer

The rRed Elephant, at 1144 Bethel St., is open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. It has a warm, comfortable atmosphere and is visually appealing to customers, surrounding them with local artwork that, according to co-owner Paul Kreiling, has received rave reviews from everyone who has come in.

Kreiling and partner Joey Wolpert have owned several businesses together, including a recording studio in California and a travel agency in Hawai‘i. The two owners have a long history in entertainment and never imagined that they would own a coffeehouse. Kreiling is an accomplished composer and has worked with major film companies such as Paramount Pictures, the Walt Disney Company, and Columbia Pictures, and Wolpert is a recording engineer who has produced songs for Bette Midler, Natalie Cole, and Aretha Franklin.

Kreiling and Wolpert decided to create a theatre and recording production studio in Hawai‘i. The rRed Elephant was developed as part of the 2,400 square foot theater and as a quick way to generate revenue for it.

“ Every business we’ve approached together has been a success, and we’ve jumped to take a risk,” said Kreiling. They decided to name their coffeehouse the rRed Elephant because “the name of our parent corporation, Elepani (meaning elephant in Hawaiian) is a symbol of good luck and prosperity. And in Asian culture, the color red is supposed to be very prosperous,” he added.

While the coffeehouse plan was still being developed, Kreiling and Wolpert spent months taste testing a variety of coffees to find the perfect blend. After focus groups graded the colors, aromas, and tastes of the different coffees, they finally found the best combination. The rRed Elephant blend, which is sold as the store’s house coffee, is a mixture of two Kona coffees and three exotic blends.
Kreiling and Wolpert also developed their own espresso blend with the help of a local coffee supplier. Their espresso beans are freshly roasted the day before they are sold, which is why the coffee at the rRed Elephant has become very popular.

In addition to the unique house coffee, customers can purchase standard coffee drinks, such as lattes and cappuccinos, for a reasonable price, $2.50 to $3. “When people spend their hard-earned cash, whether it’s for a cup of coffee or a concert ticket, they deserve to get their money back and more in a sight, sound, and coffee experience,” said Kreiling.

The rRed Elephant also sells juices, teas, and a variety of smoothies, such as Kona mocha and frozen hot chocolate. It also features pastries, gourmet sandwiches, gourmet salads, gelato (Italian ice cream), and sorbet as well. Some of the most popular pastries are the baklava and the signature cookie, which is Kreiling’s own recipe.

With inexpensive prices and quality drinks, the rRed Elephant is quickly growing a fan base. For example, one customer drives all the way from Kaimuki just to get a “decent cup of coffee.”

Despite the growing popularity of the rRed Elephant, Kreiling and Wolpert hope to attract more students by providing free wireless Internet access and hosting a variety of events every month. On the last Monday of every month the rRed Elephant features Collabo Mondays, which is an open mic night from 6:30 (sign-in) to 9 p.m. On Third Thursday, the rRed Elephant has an artist appreciation night, when customers are able to meet-and-greet the featured artist of the month from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. “One of our missions is to promote and propagate all of Hawai‘i’s hidden talent,” said Kreiling. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s the spoken word, works of art, or music.” During First Friday gallery walks through downtown, the rRed Elephant hosts live music for free from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The café is also considering an improv comedy group on Wednesdays and participation in future downtown poetry slam events. The above events are all held on a stage in the café.

On March 3, the Squirrel Hunters and Girlas performed in a sold-out concert at the theatre adjoined to the café, with tickets sold for a mere $15. The rRed Elephant Theatre can seat 130-135 people and has state-of-the-art lighting and a JBL concert sound system.

The concert was a first for the rRed Elephant but won’t be the last. Kreiling plans for many more musical artists to play at the rRed Elephant Theatre and hopes to include a variety of genres, including blues, classical, jazz, and rock.

Kreiling says that the coffeehouse and the theatre are only the first two phases of the rRed Elephant. A recording studio with four digital cameras and a 5.1 surround system and a video production suite should be completed by midsummer, he said, which will enable them to develop a record label and produce live concert for the Web.

All in all, the rRed Elephant is a coffeehouse and restaurant where students can study or hang out, an art gallery, a performing venue for rotating monthly programs, a concert theatre that doesn’t charge a hefty admission fee, a theatre and recording venue, and eventually, who knows what else Kreiling and Wolpert will create.

“ I think it’s important that people understand that we’re a local business,” said Wolpert. “We want to become a part of the community and grow awareness of music and arts within Hawai‘i.”
 

Kalamalama, the HPU Student Newspaper. All rights reserved.

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