Black-Owned Local Businesses: Rebel Kitchen

One in a series of profiles of Black-owned businesses across the Islands

Two rebels, one dream: That’s the story of Rebel Kitchen, located in the Kona town of Kainaliu and owned by the husband and wife team of Randy Martin and Gabby Bermudez.

Before Rebel Kitchen, Martin and Bermudez were unsatisfied with their career paths and wanted to do something in which they could see their hard work pay off. Something they could be proud of. 

What they had in common was their restaurant backgrounds – the two met working at a restaurant and already knew they could work well together.

“Randy has always loved to cook for people, whether it’s a holiday or just a weekend cookout,” say the couple in an email. “We started to dream of opening our own restaurant … and one day, we were like, let’s do this now or never, and so we made a business plan, started saving and doing lots of research.”

In 2011, Rebel Kitchen was born. 

“People thought we were a little crazy, but that’s why we called it Rebel Kitchen, because we felt like rebels for pursuing our dreams,” they say.

For Black business owners, Hawai‘i is different from the Mainland, say Bermudez and Martin, who have been in the Islands for nine years. Here, they say, people are supportive of everyone. Martin and Bermudez are, too, and it’s reflected in their connection to the larger community. 

“The most rewarding is when other Black people realize we are the owners and are proud of us, both older and younger generations,” write the couple. “For the young people, they see they can do it too – you can be Black and successful.”

COVID-19, though, hasn’t made their journey easy. The owners say that closing the restaurant for 2½ months during the stay-at-home order was difficult for them, their staff and the community. Now that they’ve reopened, business hasn’t entirely recovered, but the couple says they try to stay positive.

“We are fortunate to have a strong local business. … We have received a lot of support from our community, but business is still much slower than before. It’s going to be a long road ahead.”

Martin and Bermudez say they’re satisfied keeping their restaurant as is within their small community and have no plans to expand. The couple’s sights are set on growing another portion of their business: their condiment line. They currently sell their own Kona Ketchup, Hawaiian Fire Sauce and Mauka Mustard among other sauces and marinades – and they hope to see their products on shelves across Hawaiʻi someday.

They advise anyone wanting to start a business to start small and do the research, use local resources like the Small Business Administration and, most of all, be willing to do what it takes. 

“Being a business owner is not glamorous, but it is rewarding.”

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Aurora Gardener Founds Rebel Marketplace Farmers’ Market

James Grevious had never planted a garden before, let alone run a farmers’ market. But this 38-year-old father of three is successfully doing both and plans to keep the momentum of good, clean food going in his Aurora neighborhood.

“As far as Aurora goes, people actively need access to healthy food,” he says. “I spoke to Mo Betta’ Green [Marketplace], and I wanted to bring something like that to Aurora and follow in her footsteps.”

So Grevious founded his own business, Rebel Marketplace, a monthly, seasonal farmers’ and local wellness market that opened this past spring in Aurora’s Del Mar Park at 312 Del Mar Circle.  Under the slogan “Feeding our community, one garden at a time,” this small market started with a lot of gumption on Grevious’s part after his several years running his own urban farm project, Rebels in the Garden. But between COVID-19 and an initial permit denial from city officials, the public market almost didn’t happen. 

Rebels in the Garden urban farm in Aurora.EXPAND

Rebels in the Garden urban farm in Aurora.

Linnea Covington

“You can’t tell James no,” says Desiree Fajardo, Grevious’s girlfriend and a fellow gardener. “I think they are going to say no and if you just except that no, you won’t get anywhere,” she say about the city agencies in charge of licensing and permitting.

As she predicted, Grevious did not take no for an answer and asked for a meeting with the city to discuss the issues they had with starting an outdoor market at the park. He found out that there weren’t any restrictions he couldn’t overcome, and they were all able to work together to set up a plan. Then the pandemic hit and the rules became trickier to navigate, but still Grevious pushed on.

“If we didn’t have COVID I think it would have taken off, but then I wouldn’t have all of this without COVID and staying home,” says Grevious, gesturing to his vast garden. “Also, the market drew people who might not have come out if it wasn’t for the pandemic.”

Grevious can plant long rows of vegetables in his spacious back yard.EXPAND

Grevious can plant long rows of vegetables in his spacious back yard.

Linnea Covington

The seeds for Rebel Marketplace were planted in Grevious’s own back yard with Rebels in the Garden, a project he launched to engage his kids, nephew and a family friend in 2015. The idea, he says, was to do something meaningful in response to the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. At first it was mostly just good reason to hang out, grow food and have healthy snacks together at his home in Montbello. But the gardening and socializing went well enough that Grevious decided to continue his urban farm the next year. Unfortunately the timing was off and the the Air Force master sergeant and F-16 mechanic got deployed to Japan. So, the garden had to be put on hold.

In 2017 he moved to his current location in Aurora’s Highland Park neighborhood. His large back yard was perfect for the new farm, and by

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