Kailua businessman was 'a mentor to many'
Don Dymond was known for his insistence on doing the right thing and mentoring young people.
He is possibly best-known as the owner or co-owner of Kalapawai Market, a beachside Kailua landmark, its sister-restaurant in Kailua town and Zia's Caffe in Kailua and Kaneohe. Dymond died Tuesday of cancer at age 68.
Born in Reading, Pa., his family later moved to California with his U.S. Air Force stepfather.
It was in the Sacramento area "where we met and eventually married," said his wife of 42 years, Marianne. In the 1970s, "we came here on vacation, probably several years later, and just decided to move here."
Dymond was known for active support of the community, donating to the annual "I Love Kailua Town" party and contributing to the annual Independence Day fireworks show in Kailua.
He "set the standard for how to conduct business in Kailua. He was generous, supportive, and a mentor to many. Don Dymond was Kailua," said Cynthia Manley, Kailua Chamber of Commerce president.
The Dymond family businesses "donated to a lot of the local schools and community groups, paddling clubs, and Le Jardin, (to which) he was a big donor," said eldest son Lindsey Dymond. "My brother and I went to Le Jardin," he said.
In his youth, his father had worked for the Weinstock's retail chain, then became a salesman and then manager for Xerox.
In Bakersfield, Dymond opened two sandwich shops named Quicksand, as well as a print shop.
"He was doing that when we went on vacation and decided to move to Hawaii, so he sold those businesses quickly and we came over and started our new life here," his wife said.
On Oahu, Dymond started the Courthouse Racquetball chain of fitness centers on Kapiolani Boulevard, in Kaneohe near what is now Zia's Caffe, and in Mapunapuna.
He worked in commercial real estate, finding and developing Gas Express stations, and then in 1991 he and a partner who he later bought out, started working on the purchase of Kalapawai Market.
They had driven past the market during that first visit to Hawaii. "He looked at that location and said, ‘That could just be a landmark building … it could be really great,' and how ironic, when it was possible for him to help build that business," she said.
Zia's Caffe was established at 184 Hamakua Drive in Kailua in 1998 by Dymond and partner Tressa Owens. The Kaneohe Zia's followed three years later. The Kailua location was sold last year.
"I didn't know him all that well, but …I respected him. He had a great reputation and …I never heard a bad thing about him, ever," said Kern Rogerson, former owner of Jaron's, a Zia's neighbor on Hamakua Drive.
"He was an amazing businessman," said Rogerson, who remembers Kalapawai before Dymond bought it. "It was a run-down, typical mom and pop store, like out of a bygone era. Don bought it, and I'm thinking he's nuts, but then watched it just explode."
Under Dymond's leadership the building at 306 S. Kalaheo Ave. took on its familiar green-and-white facade, which inspired a Kailua High School Alumni Association float for the annual Kailua Fourth of July Parade one year.
Even when Dymond was arrested for moving a traffic cone in an incident the Honolulu Police Department described as "disorderly and aggressive conduct," the business community rallied to support him, Marianne and Lindsey Dymond recalled with laughter.
"The short story is that a giant sinkhole opened up on Hamakua and there was a big project to repair the sewer line all the way down the road," Lindsey said. "There was an agreement between the contractor and the business owners that when they were doing the work in front of the strip center, they would allow ingress and egress instead of simply closing the road."
On Pro Bowl Sunday, the special duty police officer hired to direct traffic "brought a lawn chair, cooler, umbrella and a radio, and sat down and closed the intersection so he could listen to the bowl game," Lindsey Dymond said.
In the verbal exchange that followed, Don Dymond agreed to take responsibility for public safety as people entered and exited the parking lot, explaining that the officer was not permitted to inhibit the flow of business.
The officer arrested Dymond for moving a traffic safety cone that had been blocking access to the businesses, Lindsey Dymond said.
"He was actually doing the right thing, helping people and doing what made sense, and so we had the Don Dymond Legal Relief Fund," Marianne Dymond said. "It shows a lot about Don and his courage to stand up for the rights of small businesses."
Dymond hired part-time Zia's staffer Jason Iwane as a chef to help with the 2006 opening of Kalapawai Cafe & Deli in the center of Kailua Town.
"It was an opportunity I couldn't turn down," Iwane said. When the other chef left, "I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep it moving forward, but (Dymond) put all his trust in me and I didn't want to let him down," Iwane said. Dymond created a work environment "that had a family vibe," Iwane said. "It was easy to stay, making everybody's life better, tied into each other, so we all move together," he said.
At Kalapawai Cafe Tuesday afternoon and evening as Dymond's employees learned of his death, "we had representatives of all three restaurants … celebrating his life. He was an awesome guy."
In addition to his wife and his son Lindsey, Dymond is survived by another son, Jeffrey; daughter Kellie; brothers Mel Dymond and Fred Seghetti; and sisters Sandy Emerson and Carol Farthing.
The family will stage a private service, but also is planning a celebration of his life to which the public will be invited, likely at the end of the month, Marianne Dymond said.
"Don's real wish," is that he be remembered for what he felt was his biggest contribution, "helping young people, by mentoring and teaching them and helping them to do good work for good reasons," she said.
She noted the outpouring of remembrances posted on the My Kailua Facebook page. "It would make him really happy to see all that," she said.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased