Guam devotees of the Old Hagåtña Grill who do business in Hawaii might want to check out the Lahaina Store Grill and Oyster Bar in Maui.

Don’t do a double take when you see David Hanley behind the bar. Hanley one of two principal shareholders in the “Old Hag ” as it is known has divested himself of his interest in the Guam restaurant and has moved to Hawaii.

Partnering with him in the corporation that owns the Lahaina location are Eric R. Nelson principal and president of Rim Architects; Gail Nelson principal of Computerland and Eric’s wife and what Eric Nelson told the Journal are “several Hawaii and stateside partners who would like to remain unnamed.”

The property is on Front Street in Lahaina — a location that has approximately 2 million visitors walk by a year. The two-story Lahaina Store building was built in 1916 and is a historic building that has been a landmark in Lahaina since its construction. The second floor restaurant has about 7 800 square feet of space with 240 seats. The facility also includes what Eric Nelson said is “a rooftop level with dramatic views of the ocean and mountains which has open-air seating of about 90 seats.”

Eric Nelson said “It really has been a fun and exciting deal for us.” There was a degree of serendipity in how the Nelsons came to be partners.

“Initially David Hanley found an existing restaurant right on the beach in Kona. He was looking for his next project and was extremely excited about the possibilities of the place. Having worked with David before on various projects David asked Rim to assist with the project and offer recommendations on how to improve the restaurant design to achieve an Old Hagåtña Grill concept ” Eric Nelson said.

Through a series of events — including a recommendation from the Nelsons on an investment partner — the Nelsons were asked to be investors in the project and agreed.

“Through David and my connections in the construction industry we found a design/build restaurant contractor to construct the new restaurant in Kona. While we were negotiating with the contractor the contractor suggested that we look at an even better project site available in Maui in Lahaina right along Front Street. David and I and some other investors went to Mauii to check out the situation and the location was fantastic.”

Rim Architects understandably fully designed the restaurant and Eric Nelson said “conceptually tried to achieve the feeling that the restaurant had been in the same location since the building was built.”

Nelson said the atmosphere pays tribute to the Old Hagåtña Grill. “The feel is like the Old Hagåtña Grill in the respect that it feels like the local clientele has been frequenting the establishment for year after year.” The location contains a 36-foot long bar of granite and wood with an Oyster Bar that offers locally raised oysters from Kona. The interior look has booths designed with historic detailing wood wainscoting around the perimeter walls a stamped tin and wood ceiling and an exhibition kitchen where clients can observe creation of the cuisine. Eric Nelson said “The menu will be similar to the Old Hagatna Grill tweaked for Hawaii and utilization of the local food.”

With a chef and key staff hired the restaurant will open on Oct. 28. “David Hanley is in Hawaii and is currently organizing the staff final construction and opening. Gail will be providing business management duties in Maui.”

Eric Nelson said a lot of planning went into the business. “There was an extreme amount of research that was done in determining the market competition foot traffic customer profiles and desires. Hawaii has its own requirements for building permits historical districts liquor licenses etc. etc. which we had to work through. Our Hawaii partners were instrumental in assisting us in dealing with the local requirements.”

Eric Nelson credited Gail Nelson and Hanley with practical preparations. “Dave Hanley and Gail have done an incredible job of putting together a first- class operational concept for this restaurant. The employee manuals procedures and training are designed to give the customers an excellent dining experience.”

Gail Nelson told the Journal she had conducted some research into the number of restaurants that failed and said the numbers were “scary.” Eric Nelson said “Restaurants are notoriously prone to failure. We just felt that this was a very unusual opportunity and we have done everything possible to make it successful: the right location the right concept the right menu and food quality the right manager chef and staff. We are very proud of the quality of the product that we are offering and while we are nervous about starting a new venture we are pretty confident that the restaurant will be successful.”

Keith Sage immigration consultant with the law office of Civille and Tang PLLC now solely owns the Old Hagåtña Bar and Grille.

He told the Journal he invested in the restaurant which opened in April 1999 in 2001. Sage said “Staff — including Chef Christopher Aguon — will remain the same. I think it’s working very well the way it is due in large part to David Hanley’s management. The quality and service is continuing as it has in the past.” MBJ