They are coming,
so C. Brewer has
Its new gift shop will serveBy Rod Thompson
the many tourists arriving
in Hilo by ship
HILO -- The cruise ships are coming, and C. Brewer & Co. President J.W.A "Doc" Buyers is ready for them.
Buyers and guests joined in a formal opening of Brewer's new gift shop in a small, converted office building just outside the gates of Hilo Harbor last week.
Harbormaster Ian Birnie said 94,738 passengers came off tour ships and headed into Hilo last year. At least 103,000 are expected this year.
"We're know they're coming," Buyers told guests. "That's why we've got to build it."
Until Buyers converted the wooden-frame building, which formerly housed the offices of Brewer Environmental Industries, there was little shopping for ship passengers until they traveled -- often walked, because of limited transportation -- 2 miles to downtown Hilo.
Now the harborside, plantation-style building offers air conditioning amidst surroundings which include koa rocking chairs from the former Pahala plantation manager's house and 65 koa-framed replicas of early Big Island photographs from Lyman House Museum.
The store offers 346 products including Brewer's Mauna Loa Macadamia Nuts and Royal Kona Coffee.
It also includes hand-made Big Island products that crafts people formerly sold only in fairs, such as quilts made by Willa Tanaka, "a friendly little old woman with gray hair" from Keaau, said Brewer staffer Jennifer Uratani.
Buyers plans to convert a warehouse behind the store to a permanent arts and crafts fair with 20 booths, he said.
There should be plenty of business for them. Besides 41 port calls by foreign ships, American Hawaii Cruises' ship Independence will visit Hilo 52 times this year carrying up to about 860 passengers each time, Birnie said.
The company will place an additional ship carrying 1,400 passengers in interim operation by late 2000, he said.
In 2003 and 2004 the company will replace those ships with two new ones, built for $440 million each, carrying 1,800 passengers each, Birnie said.
They'll sail each to Hilo once a week.
And a third of the same size has been ordered, though its route has not been determined, he said.