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Emily Rose Carr Hunt

Bringing a Dream to Life

By Sarah Hodges

Emily Rose Carr Hunt, a beloved member of the Still & Moving Center ‘ohana, will soon open the doors to her new coffee shop. Her long-time dream of owning a cafe came up two years ago at a Still & Moving staff meeting when life coach Tony Bonnici led a create-your-dreams mini-workshop. We all heard Emily’s excitement as she described her cafe idea, with its unique blend of her world travel coffee experiences. Renée didn’t know Emily’s dream would cause her to leave our staff. Now, a couple years later, the cafe named PeleKai comes into being. The big twist in the plot: she’s opening it AT Still & Moving Center!

At age five, Emily ran a ‘cafe’ in the 200 square foot loft of her family’s Oregon home. She named it The Upper Cafe and served the best make-believe coffee and beverages of all the imaginary cafes. She loved taking drink orders from her family, watching their delight as they received one of her imaginary treats. Being an only child sparked her rich imagination, and her playtime came alive from inner visionings. When she wasn’t cooking up something at her cafe, she was working at a make-believe grocery store, or out in the garden with her mom, working her ‘farm’. The lively world within Emily’s imagination became a treasure map for her many years later when she found herself at a crossroads. 

Amidst a successful career working for Cirque du Soleil, Emily encountered an inner calling for something different. “I gave up my forever job just to find more growth and creativity,” explains Emily. She loved her creative duties and the people with whom she worked, and yet she also knew she wanted to pursue something new. During the shift from her 10-year-long base in Las Vegas to working on a seasonal show in Japan, Emily envisioned what her new path could be. She began reflecting back on her dreams from when she was a child. “I either wanted to be a goat farmer or have a coffee shop,” Emily recalls with a chuckle. 

When we want a transformation in life, change often has a way of finding us, sometimes in the most unexpected ways. As she approached the end of her time on tour in Japan, Emily imagined what life after Cirque du Soleil could look like. She called upon a friend she’d made during one of her visits in Hawai’i, Neelanthi Vadivel, who had also worked for many years at Cirque du Soleil. Neela described a possibility for Emily to come to Hawai’i and work at Still & Moving Center. “Visiting Still & Moving, I felt really connected to the land beneath it and the beautiful interior of the center. Still & Moving became a light for me, like a candle to the dark times that I faced when I returned to Japan. I felt as if the Center was ready to receive me when I needed it,” Emily muses.

With Emily’s partner David living in Hawai’i, the decision became simple. At the close of the Japan-based Cirque show, Emily moved to Hawai’i and began working at Still & Moving Center. As she worked, Emily’s coffee shop notion danced at the periphery of her awareness. Then, at the end of 2019, it came back with an unignorable force. She started plotting how to bring the dream to life.

Just as Emily was getting ready to sign for a space to build her coffee shop in Honolulu, the Covid pandemic hit. Knowing the implications a pandemic could have on a brick-and-mortar coffee shop, she decided to reshape her vision to a mobile cafe. Renée’s husband Cliff, who owns a construction company, agreed to help her build a coffee trailer. They devised an exchange: Emily would help Cliff with his own construction project that would give her skills for the work on her trailer, and Cliff would in return help Emily construct the trailer. What a beautiful, community-support act of helping one another! She began working on Cliff’s project, learning some tricks in construction. However, the timing kept being off her from bringing her idea for the coffee trailer to life. 

“PeleKai Coffee to me is about co-creation,” comments Emily. She brainstormed with Renée’s about parking her coffee trainer in front of Still & Moving Center. Doing so, however, would block the view of the studio from the road. Then, during Emily’s goodbye dinner from her staff position at the studio, Renée asked Emily what she thought of building the cafe inside of Still & Moving Center. As with all important matters, Renée had asked Still & Moving Center itself what it wanted, and it had replied it wanted the cafe in the building. At the mention of this possibility, tears welled up in Emily’s eyes. She hadn’t dared to imagine this option, and it felt like the missing piece to the puzzle. They decided PeleKai Coffee would make its home within the very walls of Still & Moving Center. “Doing this with Renée, with the Stil & Moving community, brings richness to the cafe,” affirms Emily. “In combining different energies together, the space becomes even more alive.”

Emily and Renée worked determinedly together to come up with a cafe layout that would harmonize with the first floor of the studio. Obstacle after obstacle arose. Cliff made deep holes through the lobby floor trying to reach the drainage pipe. Much sweat and many holes later, everyone went back to the drawing board. Emily, Renée, and I decided to reposition the barista bar, pushing it right to the front window of the lobby within easy reach of the drainage line by punching a hole through the front of the building! 

Then Emily’s construction team got to work. Maybe you’ve watched her project evolve. After months of determination and effort, Emily has almost finished transforming half of the lobby into PeleKai Coffee for people from both Still & Moving and outside. 

Emily’s mission with PeleKai Coffee is to bring “Aloha in your cup”, meaning a mindfully, ethically made beverage to delight the taste buds. Teaming up with her husband Dave, Emily is creating a nurturing space where people can meet, cook up ideas, enjoy hot and cold drinks, and chart the way for bringing THEIR dreams into reality… “And it’s already happening that people are coming in, talking with each other, getting ideas, and feeling this aloha spirit!” Emily exclaims.

We are all so excited for the cafe and proud to watch Emily pull her dream into reality.

Stay tuned for details about when PeleKai Coffee will officially open. You can keep up with Emily’s progress by visiting PeleKai Coffee on Instagram @pelekaicoffee 

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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)