KOLOA — Koloa Rum is moving from Kalaheo to its namesake town.
The Kaua‘i-based rum company is planning on moving its operations to an 18.5-acre parcel of land across from Anne Knudsen Park in Koloa. Once completed, the property will house a new distillery, warehouse, offices, a tasting room, a company store and a cafe.
As Koloa Rum’s reach now extends far beyond the Garden Island. Its products are now available in 32 states and eight countries, and it recently announced collaborations with the Las Vegas Raiders and Purdue University Athletics.
Koloa Rum CEO Bob Gunter told The Garden Island that the company has outgrown its current facilities.
“As we continue to grow, our production output has to grow with it,” he said. “And we have pretty much reached maximum output capacity at our existing facility in Kalaheo. So for us to continue to grow at the rate that we have been, we need larger space.”
Once the new distillery opens, the company’s output capacity would immediately quadruple, according to Gunter.
Additionally, Gunter anticipates the company’s full-time employee count to increase from 52 to upwards of 85.
“That’s gratifying, because one of the objectives we had in the beginning was to be able to help diversify our local economy, to help preserve our agricultural industry and ag lands, and provide meaningful employment for our local residents here on Kaua‘i,” he said.
Once the new distillery is completed and fully operational, the existing distillery in Kalaheo will be closed and vacated, Gunter said, although the tasting room and store at Kilohana Plantation in Puhi will remain open.
The company plans to construct the new facilities in three phases, all on the same site on Maluhia Road.
Phase one will involve building a 45,000-square-foot distillery and warehouse building, as well as a 3,000-square-foot administrative building.
Phase two will consist of a 4,500-square-foot tasting room and company store, similar to the existing location at Kilohana Plantation.
Finally, phase three will create a 4,500-square-foot cafe, where Gunter plans to serve light lunches and cocktails.
The company also intends to plant eight to 10 acres of sugarcane on the property, in addition to several existing acres already planted.
Gunter expressed his excitement over having the company’s entire production occurring on one site.
“Our intention is, several years from now, to produce a Koloa single-estate organic rum,” he said. “That is, rum that is produced from sugarcane grown on the site, harvested on the site, crushed, processed and bottled and sold at that site, at our tasting room and store.”
Gunter told The Garden Island that the project’s general contractor, Maryl Group Construction, anticipates phase one of construction to take between 12 and 14 months following county issuance of permits. Gunter did not give a time frame for phases two or three of construction.
Once all phases of construction are completed and operational, Gunter hopes to offer public tours of the property, showing each step of production and giving guests a history of both the company and the town of Koloa.
One of his stated goals for the site is to create a “visitor destination,” where guests can see the start-to-finish process of making rum.
“We’ll give people an up-close and personal experience,” he said.
Gunter also hopes the new facility will allow Koloa Rum to integrate its property and activities with the annual Koloa Plantation Days celebration each August, as well as other community events.
Koloa Rum’s move to the South Shore has been long in the making. The company first submitted a planning application to the county in June 2014.
Gunter said the company was poised to begin construction near the turn of the decade, but had to halt plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this time, the company had begun communicating with the Koloa Community Association and broader South Shore community regarding construction plans. As construction nears once more, Gunter said the company is in the process of restarting those communications, and expects in-person meetings to begin shortly.
Additionally, Gunter said the company will add a page to their website, koloarum.com, to provide real-time updates on construction activities and schedules.
“We want to be transparent and communicative with the local community,” he said. “We want this to be not only a destination for visitors, but also something that our local people can feel a part of, and can participate in and enjoy.”
Jackson Healy, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-4966 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: The Garden Island
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