Taste of the islands

Jules Jackson

photo by howard hardee

Formidable roadblocks confronted married couple Jules Jackson and Dennis Lundy after they decided to open Maui Wowi, a beach-themed smoothie and coffee shop, at the corner of Mangrove and Vallombrosa avenues. Their preference to have a drive-through window prompted review from the city's Community Development Department and took the prospective business owners to multiple Planning Commission and City Council meetings. They finally received approval from the council in July and hope to open the store this fall, by which time they anticipate hiring 10 to 12 employees. Now the couple are set to debut their tropical treats at Taste of Chico on Sunday (Sept. 13). Jackson sat down with the CN&R to give an update on their progress. Look up Maui Wowi of Chico on Facebook for more info.

What made you want to start a business?

You get to a stage where you're working for someone and they don't have the culture you want, and most of the employees don't either. They don't have the spirit, you know? We're both going to be working for quite a few years and we want to be somewhere we're able to have our own culture and to have our employees be happy.

Why a restaurant?

We actually didn't want a restaurant, per se, because of the 24/7 thing and always being there, but Dennis and I really enjoy good coffee, and he makes smoothies every morning. I was looking at the possibility of a small franchise and Maui Wowi caught my eye. We gave them a call and went to Denver, where the corporation is based. We tasted their products and went to Kona Coffee, where they do the roasting. We were drawn in right away.

Considering your difficulties with the city, did you ever worry it wouldn’t work out?

It was a battle. And, yeah, there were times we didn't think it was going to work in the Mangrove location—we really like the spot—but we prevailed, months later. We were really hoping to open in June. It set us back quite a bit. We wanted to do a fancier patio, but as time has gone by and money has dwindled, we're going to put that on hold. We'll just do a simple patio this year and maybe expand next year.

When is your grand opening?

We don't know yet. We have all our permits now, and we're trying to get bids from contractors. We'd like to open in October, but more realistically it's looking like the beginning of November.

So, Taste of Chico will be an advanced preview of Maui Wowi?

Yes. They invited us to participate and we thought, “We're not really prepared to do this.” But that's the good thing about being part of a franchise—they help you. So, we'll have a little tiki hut and we'll be blending two smoothies—strawberry and mango-orange.