When Anuenue Juice Bar owner Tammy Ringbauer left Lanai a few years ago, Tanya Ashworth, a part-time Juice Bar employee, decided to buy the truck and continue providing healthy juice and bowls to the community.
“We worked well together, and it was a seamless transition,” Ashworth said. Before she left, Ringbauer connected her with local vendors to source produce and ingredients. Once that was done, Ashworth got to work tweaking the menu, making it her own and rebranding the company as Lanai Wai. Wai, the Hawaiian word for freshwater, is the foundation for the business. “It is the freshwater that brings life and nutrients to all the plants and vegetables that go into each of our products,” Ashworth explained. “Without freshwater, there is no life.”
Resilience and pandemic pivots
Lanai Wai celebrated its one-year anniversary in March 2020, right as COVID-19 reached our shores. Pre-pandemic, Ashworth would prep all week for the Saturday Market, but once COVID hit, and the market closed, she had to figure out a new way to distribute her products. To keep everyone safe while continuing to offer fresh and healthy food and drinks to the community, she created a system of contactless pickup, a quick and efficient handoff that works well in our small town.
“I do all my prep in the commercial kitchen and then put the items out in a cooler outside of my fence. It’s real country style.” She has received positive feedback for this style of operations and customers have told her it’s been a convenient way to get their orders. “The feedback I’ve been getting from everyone is that it’s great, because they don’t waste any time. It’s been working out for me as well as the community.”
To cut down on single-use plastics, repeat customers often get their orders in mason jars. Customers pick up their jars and return them to Ashworth when finished. All jars go through a thorough multi-step sanitation process before being utilized again. While she doesn’t charge a fee for the jars, Ashworth says she gets most of them back, and on a small island with limited resources, the honor system and recycling efforts have been working well.
Lanai Wai’s greatest hits
Everyone loves Lanai Wai’s acai bowls, a recipe that includes a cold-pressed apple which gives the dish a nice earthy flavor. For those looking to add more vegetables to their diet, the Koele Bowl is a green version of the acai bowl, which includes a handful of spinach that you can’t even taste.
Fresh made-to-order pressed juices are also popular and use 100% juice. Ashworth sources some of the juice ingredients, like kale, parsley, lemon balm, calamansi, basil, Meyer lemons, and mint, directly from her garden. She also grows strawberries for acai bowls in the spring.
Aside from juices and acai bowls, Lanai Wai’s lilikoi dressing is always in high demand. She had tried lilikoi dressing on other islands and knew she loved it but couldn’t find any once she moved to Lanai. “My lilikoi dressing came out of left field,” said Ashworth. “I’m not a chef and I don’t claim to be one in any way, but I had this other dressing that I liked, and I thought if I just made some lilikoi dressing with fresh lilikoi, it would be really good — and it was!”
The dressing took off and even earned her a nod from Hawaii Magazine. Now she has a long list of regulars on Oahu and Maui who purchase the product when she goes back for visits. She even sends her dressing to a customer in Michigan who purchases it by the gallon.
Place an order
Texting Ashworth at 808-639-1482 is the best way to place your Lanai Wai order. The first pickup is at 9:30 a.m. and ends orders around 4:30 or 5 p.m. Preorders are preferred, and Ashworth will attempt to stagger your pickup time to avoid gatherings. You can also find Lanai Wai on Instagram (@lanaiwai).