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New eatery proves to be a hit

Saturday 22 April 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Features, Go Local

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New eatery proves to be a hit
Kai Malie owner/operator Natasha Wright with her crew during a brief break from a busy lunch hour. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS/23042133

It’s a combined effort for a husband and wife team who have transformed a ramshackle facility into a retail and eatery outlet in the heart of Rarotonga.

Natasha Wright and her husband Louis Koteka have redeveloped the “Raviz” building and given it a new breath of life.  

There is Kai Malie (Delicious Food), a stylish eatery which opened a couple of weeks ago – then there is Mina (I Love It), a boutique focussing on locally made garments. They are combined under the umbrella of The Plaza.

Wright says the opportunity arose some time ago to redevelop the site. Kai Malie is the couple’s first venture into food.

Koteka is a builder and Wright a retailer.

They both have connections to the Northern Group of islands, hence some of the names such as Mina from Pukapuka where Wright’s mother is from.

Koteka traces his ancestry to Manihiki.

“This can be our platform to educate our people of the language up north,” Wright says.

Mina features a locally made line of women’s clothing labelled Wawine (women in Pukapuka) and Lopa (men in Pukapuka).

Wright is no stranger to retail as she has been long associated with Tuki’s Pareu, just up the road in Avarua.

“I grew up in a very business oriented family; Tuki’s is a family business I run.”

Mina opened just before Christmas.

In terms of Kai Malie, Wright says it’s a team effort.  

“For Louis and I, we wanted to create a comfy space for people to enjoy themselves, we wanted to make it affordable.”

They spent about three weeks prior to the opening with 10 staff preparing the eatery for its first day of trading.

“Most of our staff are from Fiji, we have a couple of locals, but it’s hard to find local labour.

“I’m grateful to my team for coming here.”

She says the menu is “ever changing” as opposed to fixed.

“We focus on local produce as much as we can, we want flavoursome food.

“Our drive is to give our people a nice place to dine, quality product and affordable.

“We are trying hard to make it affordable.”

Wright is constantly seeking feedback from customers, and it’s all positive.

“I like to get feedback, that’s the only way we can improve.

“On our menu we must have a vegetarian option and we are working towards gluten-free.

“There are various dietary needs now.”

She says it’s been hard work getting to where they are now.

“We have done a lot of work to get to this stage.”

Wright thanks Koteka and his team for the work they have done in bringing the building back to life.

“Louis and his team have done a marvellous job; it’s been a makeover and we put a lot of work into it.”

She says the building sat empty for a couple of years and needed a lot of “TLC”.

“Everything is new now, it was four months of work.”

Wright adds they are both not afraid of “a bit of hard work”.

“We can collectively see the end-picture, we work well as a team; we surround ourselves with good people.

“What we are doing is appreciated and we are here for the long run.

“We are both Cook Islanders, we are not going anywhere.”

Wright says they could have left the Cooks, but it is their home, and what they are enjoying from their latest venture is the number of families they can provide an outlet for.

“If we grow, everyone around us grows.

“It gives people another avenue for additional income.

“If you have got a dream, believe it and you can achieve it.

“Don’t let anyone say you can’t do it.”