New Mesa store Aloha Island Market offers a taste of the islands with home-style cooking and hard-to-find snacks.
Laukau Ioelu and her husband, JP, opened the shop to bring Polynesians and other Pacific Islanders closer to home. They also want to give their culture greater exposure in the Valley. Maricopa County is home to more than 13,000 Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, according to a 2019 U.S. Census estimate.
Laukau, who is Tongan Samoan, said she was born in Tonga and raised in Hawaiʻi before moving to Arizona about 30 years ago, while JP, who’s Samoan, was born in Honolulu.
“I missed that aloha feeling you get from the Polynesians,” Laukau said.
She described the aloha spirit as a welcoming energy, of feeling loved even from a stranger walking through the door.
What to expect at Aloha Island Market
Located in a strip mall on the northwest corner of Lindsay Road and University Drive, the Mesa market is a one-stop shop offering a variety of imported goods from the Polynesian islands, such as metal jewelry, decorative carvings, flower leis and woven palm leaf bags.
The shop sells different styles of puletasi or puletaha, a two-piece dress worn by Samoans, Tongans and Fijians.
People can also do a bit of grocery shopping, or satisfy their hunger with a takeout meal.
“Breadfruit, mangoes, papayas — these were things I could find stepping out my home, pretty much,” Laukau said. “Things I’m bringing to store, like plumerias and tea leaves, are things I could walk outside my door and pick off the trees.”
What food to try at this Mesa shop
Aloha Island Market serves a rotating selection of hot meals. For the week of Jan. 26, some of the menu items included:
Follow Aloha Island Market on Facebook for updates on hot foods.
The shop also sells pantry items, snacks and refrigerated foods that are popular on the islands, such as guava cakes, Tim Tam chocolate biscuit cookies, Bongo chips in cheese and chicken flavors, Peanut Ruffs, Hawaiian Sun canned fruit drinks and Redondo’s hot dogs.
A small produce selection offers green bananas, taro roots, frozen and fresh taro leaves, and coconuts.
Details: Aloha Island Market, 454 North Lindsay Road, Suite 2, Mesa. facebook.com/alohaislandmarketaz.
Reach the reporter at [email protected]. Follow @priscillatotiya on Twitter and Instagram.
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