‘Toward the Mountains’: Cultural fusion, community focus of Hawaiian bakery coming to Craig
“Nothing really matches too much. We don’t want it to be structured. We want people to feel at home and not feel like they have to be a certain type of person to come in here. We want to keep this place very family- and community-oriented.”
— Emanuel Quintero
Emanuel Quintero, 24, is an islander. He was born and raised in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, later moving to Maui.
In January, Quintero relocated to Craig with his wife, Molly, to open a family-owned and operated bakery called Mauka, Hawaiian for “toward the mountains.”
“We’re from the islands, so we’re always thinking about the ocean,” Quintero said. “But we’re in Colorado now. People here love the mountains and the outdoors.”
Quintero said people often ask him how he could trade a tropical island for living stateside.
It’s a simple answer, Quintero said: family.
The background, however, is a little more in depth.
The Quinteros used to operate a family restaurant on Oahu not far from a U.S. Naval station.
Craig resident Gabriel Clark was stationed there when he met Quintero’s sister, Metzeri. The two began dating and later married.
After serving, Clark wanted to return to his native Craig and was able to convince his wife to relocate to the mainland.
The rest of the family followed, including Quintero’s mother, Maria, and sister, Naila.
The family arrived in Craig approximately five years ago, Quintero said.
Quintero, however, only lasted a year in Craig. He said he wasn’t ready to leave the ocean and give up island living.
But when Quintero discovered the Clarks, his mother and sister, now Naila Lichtenhan, began the purchase process of Outdoor Connections at 34 E. Victory Way for a bakery, the prospect of once again being part of a family restaurant was all the motivation he needed to return.
The entire family is invested in Mauka. The theme of the bakery draws from another Hawaiian word, “Ohana,” which means family.
“Nothing really matches too much,” Quintero said. We don’t want it to be structured. We want people to feel at home and not feel like they have to be a certain type of person to come in here. We want to keep this place very family and community oriented.”
Quintero has borrowed a number of ideas from one of his favorite coffee houses in Maui to create the family atmosphere he is trying to establish.
Although still renovating, Mauka already features a number of black canvases on its walls, which can be utilized by residents to display their art.
The bakery also features a lounge area with recycled shelves stacked with books.
“We bought these books to serve as a foundation for another idea, which is take a book, leave a book,” Quintero said. “If you find something here that you want to read, we encourage people to take it, but we also want people to share the books they really like for other people in the community to enjoy.
“Right now, it’s tough for everybody. If we can help the community by getting people’s art sold for free or to provide free books for people to enjoy, we really want to push that.”
Quintero’s gallery ideas extend beyond the interior walls of the future bakery.
Being a fan of street graffiti art found in his native Oahu, Quintero said the family wants to donate the exterior east and south walls of the building to community artists to paint murals.
“I love graffiti art and I think this is another way to get the community involved,” Quintero said. “If there is enough interest we’d like to change the murals about every six months.”
Once established, Quintero wants to institute a monthly recurring event called “First Fridays,” where Mauka will host a free community art gallery, live music, or open mics.
Being from Hawaii, Quintero said there has been a lot of public curiosity about what the menu will entail.
In addition to local Hawaiian fare, soups, salads and daily fresh baked breads, Quintero said the family is negotiating with Hawaiian roasters to import Kona coffee to Craig and that the restaurant will highlight the fusion of cultures found on the islands, primarily American, Asian and Hispanic.
“We’ll have things like Pilipino pastries, Chinese cookies, Mexican churros and Portuguese malsadas,” Quintero said. “We might even have a box of Coco Puffs, we don’t know. We want to keep it as a spur of the moment kind of thing.”
The family hopes to open Mauka by April 1, Quintero said.