DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Teo Clemens and Drae Kahale-Clemens, above, owners of the Mauka to Makai Outdoor Gear Hawaii store at Ward Gateway Center, are expanding to the Shops at Mauna Lani on the Big Island with two new shops this fall. CLICK FOR LARGE
Mauka to Makai outdoor shop gears up for Big Island debut
The 2-year-old Oahu company will open its second store in the fall
Teo Clemens and Drae Kahale-Clemens, owners of the nearly 2-year-old Mauka to Makai Outdoor Gear Hawaii at Ward Gateway Center, are expanding to the Big Island.
Two more shops, another Mauka to Makai, as well as the Grin, a new boutique featuring the "Life is Good" logo, are expected to open at the Shops at Mauna Lani this fall.
For the Clemens, the expansion is in line with their goal of outfitting residents of Hawaii with quality gear for every outdoor sport mauka to makai -- from the mountains to the sea.
"We wanted to go into an establishment we felt was going to have the right energy, and fit the whole meaning of Mauka to Makai," said Kahale-Clemens. "When we walked the shops there, we were overcome and overwhelmed with the energy there, and felt it was the right space."
The Big Island was a good fit, she said, because it is the youngest island in the Hawaiian chain, and offers so many varied climates that might call for rainforest gear as well as ocean gear and even snow gear.
The Shops at Mauna Lani, on the Kohala coast, is a resort shopping center built last year, featuring 25 to 30 boutique shops like Tommy Bahama and restaurants like Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.
The second Mauka to Makai at Mauna Lani will measure about 900 square feet, while the Grin: Life is Good Genuine Neighborhood Shoppe next door will be about 1,500 square feet.
The Clemens felt the opportunity was ripe to expand Mauka to Makai.
Kahale-Clemens says between last year and this year, sales have grown 20 percent. In November, Mauka to Makai will be celebrating its 2-year anniversary at Ward Gateway.
So far, the Ward store has been attracting hikers, campers, watermen and waterwomen from throughout the island, and even neighbor islands.
As the official Patagonia team dealer, Mauka to Makai has outfitted dozens of sports groups with capilene team jerseys -- whether paddling clubs, basketball teams or running clubs.
As active paddlers in the Kailua Canoe Club, the Clemens test out the gear themselves. Daughter Pi'ikea, 8, and son Duke, 6, also pitch in at the store and give their input.
Besides technical gear -- stuff that's supposed to stay waterproof, wick up your sweat and endure the rugged outdoors like Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, and Gramicci -- lifestyle brands are also catching on.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Oahu's Mauka to Makai outdoor gear store is expanding to the Big Island this fall with two new shops, one of which will feature the "Life is Good" brand line exclusively. Above, store manager Kristi Kahale showed the clothing yesterday. CLICK FOR LARGE
Some of the top sellers include the "Life is Good" line of bags, wallets, T-shirts, hats, toys and footwear. The brand logo features a stick figure named Jake, with a toothless grin.
That line is now expanding to include jewelry, furniture, baby clothes and golfwear, even collars, leashes and bowls for pets.
Life is Good Inc., a T-shirt business founded by Boston brothers Bert and John Jacobs in 1994, has since blossomed into a popular brand name.
Because it has been a top seller, the Clemens decided to enter a deal with the Boston business, which partners with independently owned retail stores solely dedicated to the Life is Good brand.
The Genuine Neighborhood Shoppes, which have the exclusive rights to sell the brand, exist from Nashville, Tenn., to Boulder, Colo., and Los Gatos, Calif.
The Grin would be the first Genuine Neighborhood Shoppe in Hawaii, and the Clemens said they hope there will be more to come.
"What makes the brand so popular is its message," said Teo Clemens. "The designs are simple, the logo is nice and the messages are straightforward and simple."
The Hinano brand -- owned by the beer company Brasserie de Tahiti SA -- is the next top seller. Top-selling items include Hinano T-shirts, board shorts, pareos and slippers.
"We can't keep it on the shelves," said Clemens.
Most of the marketing for Mauka to Makai is still grassroots and community-based, whether it's through the Kailua Canoe Club, Bishop Museum or Hawaiian Trail & Mountain Club.
"We're pretty excited," said Teo Clemens. "We're evolving, and every day is an evolution for us."