Erika Engle

Friday, August 6, 2004

Made in Hawaii Festival
can be paradise for
buyers, exhibitors

THE annual Made in Hawaii Festival is a big draw: just ask any of the more than 35,000 people who went last year.


Festival hours for the public are noon to 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 20; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sun., Aug. 22. Admission is $2 and free for children under 6. Half-off coupons will be available at First Hawaiian Bank locations on Oahu.

For exhibitors, the attraction is that the festival starts as a trade show for about 1,500 retail buyers each year.

From 9 a.m. to noon Aug. 20, festival sponsor First Hawaiian Bank and the producer, the Hawaii Food Industry Association, throw open the doors of Blaisdell Center to the elite shoppers.

Sunset Beach Traders Inc., makers of Hawaii-themed switchplates for light switches and outlets, has been a regular exhibitor for six years, said co-owner Linda Robb.

"It's the only venue we know of that promotes Hawaiian-made goods," she said.

Hawaii and Hawaii-themed merchandise are huge wherever she goes. "I have accounts throughout the islands and from coast-to-coast ... Hawaiian shops are doing well in Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, in places where you wouldn't think they would."

Robb's partner Kimberly Walsh will staff the Sunset Beach Traders booth, as Robb will be in her own booth across the way. This is the first year she'll bring her North Shore Underground apparel line to the show, along with the Hawaiian Built line she's exhibited the last two years.

The local brands, trendy teen wear and signature and sponsor lines of her son, pro-surfer Kalani Robb, are sold at North Shore Underground, the Haleiwa retail store Robb opened in November.

The Lavender Farm Inc., parent company of Maui's Alii Kula Lavender, has made lucrative connections at the festival. Hawaiian Airlines recruited Alii Kula for its Hawaiian Miles program and the arrangement brings the lavender people $2,500 a month in new revenue.

Festival networking between Alii Kula and Big Island Candies resulted in a new Lavender Truffle, which is being launched later this month. Your columnist was crestfallen to learn the dark chocolate truffle would only be available for ordering at the festival, not for sampling.

Several lavender culinary and bath and body products will be sampled and sold at the festival, according to marketing director Lani Medina.

The trade-only time quickens the pulse of retailer Maile Meyer. A buyer and exhibitor, she owns Native Books - Na Mea Hawaii at Ward Warehouse and the Na Mea Hawaii stores at Fort Street Mall and in Hilton Hawaiian Village.

"I get heart palpitations. It's like, my idea of a good time," she giggled.

"I tell my husband I'm not going to take the kids, the dog or my mother, I have to go by myself."

Three hours doesn't seem like enough time to check out 400 booths.

"I do a jogging shoes run through ... I don't really talk to anyone. I strategize." As she swoops, she looks, picks up cards or brochures and revisits the booths that catch her fancy during the rest of the festival. It's also a way to see firsthand if the items or products she thinks are great, are also popular with shoppers.

Meyers' own booth will talk about the stores and Na Mea's featured artisans and will steer shoppers to the artists' booths.

Debbie Costello and business partner Gail Allen, owners of Island Treasures Art Gallery and Kailua Beachwalk in Kailua, will be there this year.

Island Treasures' offerings are strictly made in Hawaii, while Kailua Beachwalk has a mix of merchandise.

Most of the shops' customers are local and are repeat customers who want to see new merchandise, Costello said. The partners can give customers newness without the expense of multiple neighbor island buying trips.

"I like going to this show because it brings outer island people to me."

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:



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