Sitting volleyball player Kaleo Kanahele Maclay poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympics shoot on November 20, 2019 in West Hollywood, California.
To say that Kaleo Kanahele Maclay keeps herself busy is an understatement. A setter for the reigning Paralympic champion U.S. sitting volleyball team, Maclay is a wife, a mother, a baker, and now a business owner with a new storefront in her native Oklahoma City.
Maclay, along with her husband Matthew and friend Kelly Long, opened Flower & Flour on Monday, Oct. 26. The shop brings together the passions for all three as a one-stop shop for not only baked goods and coffee, but also floral arrangements and gifts.
“We talked about wanting to merge baking and flowers together,” Maclay said. “My husband is obsessed with coffee and always wanted to have his own coffee shop and we just decided to merge them all together.”
While Flower & Flour is a new enterprise, Maclay has had her own business, “Cookies by Kaleo” for several years, starting that second career after helping Team USA to the gold medal in the Paralympic Games Rio 2016. She will continue in that endeavor both for the new business, but also on its own.
The opening of Flower & Flour required some hustle on the part of Maclay and her partners. The three had originally planned on a September opening after acquiring their building last March. However, a turbulent 2020 that postponed the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo led to some changes in that schedule.
“The goal was to open and start the business after Tokyo, but after that was postponed, we really had to put our feet to the ground and start making it happen,” Maclay said. “When COVID hit, everything went astray.”
After renovating and preparing their storefront for the better part of six months, Flower & Flour was ready to open. However, no sooner did Maclay open the front door to a waiting public, an early-season ice storm slammed through Oklahoma City, knocking out power to much of the city and leaving it at a virtual standstill.
“It was crazy, but thankfully our building never lost power,” she said.
A few hours into Flower & Flour’s existence, and it had already become a safe harbor for neighborhood residents seeking a respite from their powerless homes as the ice descended upon the city.
“We had our space open with heat, food and coffee. People were able to come in, warm up, use our WiFi, and have some coffee,” she said. “It was a crazy week to open, but I’m glad we were able to be there for people.”
As it is wont to in late October, the weather quickly shifted as more seasonable conditions returned to mid-Oklahoma. After an icy opening, sunny skies and warm temperatures graced the storefront for much of the rest of the store’s opening week as customers continued to stream in the door.
“It’s been incredible. I didn’t know what to expect,” Maclay said. “Obviously, I thought our friends would come and support us, but it has been really cool that the majority of people that have come out are people that we haven’t known. It’s been great meeting so many new people in addition to our friends coming and hanging out.”
Flower & Flour is more than just a business to Maclay, it’s been a chance to involve those close to her more fully in her life. Not the least of those people is her husband, Matthew.
“Within the last couple of years, I’ve really invited him in more,” she said. “I really hadn’t realized how separated my life had become. I had really compartmentalized what is volleyball, what is family, what is ‘Cookies by Kaleo.’ I never really allowed all of them to mesh together. Opening the business has created the opportunity for him to be involved in cookies and be involved more in my life overall.”
With the now 2021 Tokyo Games just under a year away, Maclay said that the hope is that the business will be at a point where Matthew will be able to join her in Japan.
“He wants to go so bad to be there for me. It’s something I’m so thankful for,” she said. “We want to be at a place where he can join me. We have the time to get to that place where we can step back from being here all day, every day.”
While Maclay has been practicing and training on her own, Team USA’s preparation for Tokyo 2021 begins to ratchet up with the start of the new year. She knows that her schedule, which already begins with the duties of baking and motherhood in the pre-dawn hours, will become even more intense as the Games draw ever closer.
“These are the longest days I’ve ever had in my life,” she said. “I’m the type of person that keeps wanting to do more and more and more, and it shows with how much is going on. But I have to realize that there are only 24 hours in a day and you have to make the most of those 24.”