Smoothie shop The Cut connects the Our Kaka‘ako community to fresh fruit and to each other.
Text by Anna Harmon | Images by Jonas Maon
“He’s got the freshest coconut in Kaka‘ako, little smoothie shop called The Cut. Like the ripe fruit, he got those, right behind the Porsche and Jaguar shop.”
So begins The Cut’s bright ditty, accompanied by ‘ukulele and sung by Mangofreeman, as the young owner likes to be called, behind the counter of his smoothie shop. Just as his lyrics describe, The Cut is located in the heart of Our Kaka‘ako, down an alley and in front of creative hub Lana Lane Studios. Visitors who come across the shop find a banana bunch hanging above an open counter, a stool pulled up, and a wood stump out front with husks of coconuts scattered to the sides. Here, Mangofreeman—an alias inspired by a superhero who is attuned to the sound of falling fruit, which he catches and places in the hands of children before they enter fast food stops—waits to reintroduce you to the produce of Hawai‘i.
The Cut was born in February of this year. It has the feel of times past, which was the aim of Mangofreeman, who is from Kaimukī and grew up around plantation-style architecture. He has wanted to own a smoothie shop since childhood, when he spent time in Hanalei and for a brief stint went to Hanalei Elementary. “Down at the pier, there was this guy called Friedman and he had a smoothie wagon,” he says. “That was the first time I thought about how it would be cool to have a smoothie truck.” Mangofreeman got into surfing as he got older, and as he began to train for the sport, he realized the importance of what you eat, and thus of local produce and fresh fruits.
But The Cut is more than a smoothie shop. It’s a gathering place. This is due both to its location at the entrance of Lana Lane, and also to Mangofreeman’s insistence on the importance of food as an experience, as well as a community builder. He invites passerbys to partake in a coconut; he asks someone who orders a smoothie to toss him a couple bananas from the hanging bunch. If he has lychee, you can trade him for mangos, or whatever else you may have. He only uses local produce, unless he receives a donation otherwise. He gets fruits from O‘ahu farms, and trims trees in exchange for their offspring.
“Take a live coconut, or take a coconut in a can. It’s a daily struggle,” he says. “Some days I’ll offer one of the guys a coconut and they’re like, ‘I don’t got time,’ It makes me wonder, what are we sacrificing? What are we doing in pursuit of our dreams?” He admits that he even feels too lazy to cut coconut for himself at times. But he dreams of a community in which people gather regularly to harvest and enjoy fresh coconut together.
For Mangofreeman, food connects humans with each other, as well as with our environment. “Take this coconut,” he says, gesturing to a green one resting on the wood counter. “This was in the sun on a tree for six months every day, absorbing that sun energy coming from thousands or millions of miles away. … And then we get to receive all that condensed energy and time. It’s for us. So I say we’re traveling at light speed. We walk in grace and travel at light speed, whether we realize it or not.”
The Cut is located at 327 Lana Lane. Hours are roughly 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information, follow @thecut_kakaako on Instagram.