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Written by C. Jayden Smith
Since 2016, Alohana Acai Bowls has experienced a story full of colorful twists and turns to grow into a popular business with several locations, including one in Capistrano Beach that opened in April.
Robert Aucoin found himself tossing a bowl of acai after years of working in the surfing and outdoor industries, due to a liability at a fateful trade show that saw him deal with a food truck.
Talk to others who have been in the field and thought it would be a good idea to open one of their own, so envision a menu that would be green, healthy, and consistent with your “surfing style.”
Aucoin said his first event with his truck was at a similar trade show, and even then, the process was a side hustle for him.
“I was just trying to make some extra money and got to work, I was fine, and I was happy,” he said. “I thought, OK, I either need to keep this up or I just need to make it a food truck and move on with my life.”
In the early stages, O’Quinn was heavily influenced by Café Ramen, a storefront restaurant in Old Town San Clemente whose first brick-and-mortar location eventually opened.
He saw his children and many other people talking about it. The success of Ramen Restaurant has proven its belief that people will find good products wherever they are found.
“I went there to get ramen with my wife and I said, ‘Wow, maybe that’s where I have to be,'” and I talked to the owner and next thing you know, I have a shop there, O’Quinn said.
His first store, then known as Aloha Acai Bowls, opened in December 2019, and with contributions from a San Diego-based partner, Aloha expanded to Carlsbad in 2021.
Along the way, a legal threat forced their hands to change the name of the company that was born as a result of a collaboration between O’Quinn, his partner, and other friends during a surfing trip in Mexico. The trip helped identify a name that matches the restaurant’s goodwill, but they soon learn that a New York City-based company called Juice Generation owns a trademark on “Aloha.”
O’Quinn said his group initially tried to work with Juice Generation, but to no avail. They turned to a trademark attorney for help, who initially said they could win the case easily, before discovering a new, much bigger obstacle.
It turns out that Juice Generation, one of the partners (for) the money behind it is actress Salma Hayek, and her husband is 10The tenth Aucoin said what he called a funny story. “So a trademark attorney is like, ‘You’re never going to win this.'”
With that, his group turned to look for a new name. They find “Alohana,” which happens to be the name of a Hawaiian-style event in Palm Springs, and they are released to proceed.
O’Quinn was pleased with the results, and said he thought it added more substance than before in that it combines the salutation, or “aloha,” and family feel of “ohana.”
“We were very excited,” he said. “I think it suits us really well, it fits our vibe and who we are, and so when we did that it was an easy transition.”
O’Quinn was aware of The Fuel Shack, who had previously operated the Capistrano Beach location, and contacted them after learning that the company would be closing. With the restaurant equipment still inside, a perfect storm allowed him to move in and catch up right where The Fuel Shack left off.
He said it was “cool” to be a part of the San Clemente community that has been so supportive of Alohana.
Many local teens and college-age people work in O’Quinn’s stores, and there have been several instances of the high school track team and other people coming to O’Quinn or his children. It all added to the tremendous energy and atmosphere of the company, part of the way it operates.
O’Quinn said he hopes Alohana and his staff will put smiles on people’s faces and share positive vibes. He has heard from many about the way his employees have impacted the society in a positive way, which he credits to the great effort they all put in.
“I want everyone to feel welcome and loved in our store, and (for us) just give in this great energy, share it and let (people) take it into their day and keep spreading it,” he concluded.
Jim Jaden Smith
Jim Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High School in 2018 before earning a bachelor’s degree in digital journalism and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he worked as a reporter for Salina magazine in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and disturbs his black lab called Shadow.
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