Erika Engle

The end of one
Hawaii retail era, the
beginning of another

Native Books & Beautiful Things LLC will forever close the doors of its Ward Warehouse store at 9 p.m. today as partners are largely going their separate ways.

"We are dissolving our LLC," said member Faith Uilani Mokiao, president of clothing maker and Native Books hui member Skinny Dip Hawaii Inc.

But that's hardly the end of the road.

The store will reopen under a slightly different name with many of the same players.

Skinny Dip Hawaii Inc. partners and hui members Mokiao and Donna Burns, and Bete Inc. President Nola Nahulu are among the hui members staying with Native Books founder Maile Meyer, who will spearhead the new incarnation of the shop. It will be called Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii and will operate under Meyer's Native Books Inc.

Other featured artists are also staying, such as Pam Dow of Maile Vision Inc., Lauhala lady Linda Schweitzer, Mapuana Gallery's Mapuana Schneider and well-known local designer Nake'u Awai.

"I wouldn't leave home without him," Meyer chuckled. "If Nake'u stays I know the world is right."

Meyer and others associated with the store have seen many sad faces leading up to today's closing. She would have everyone focus on the positive of the footprint that has been established for locally made goods.

"I don't care what anybody says about me or the politics," she said.

Disagreements between some members took their toll over the years as the hui shrank from its original 18 members, to 15, to the 10 who are now disbanding.

"The partners got burned out," Mokiao said. "We've been together eight years and have our own businesses on the side. They needed to venture off in that area."

The new opening will be just before the Made In Hawaii Festival, right up the road at the Neal Blaisdell Center Aug. 15-17, meaning the new store dependent on local artisans and manufacturers is having to work around that schedule. "That's their biggest show," Meyer said.

In the weeks the store will be closed the Ward Warehouse space will be renovated. Additionally, contents of the School Street Native Books will be moved to Ward.

The formal opening of Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii will be in conjunction with a planting moon on Sept. 7, Meyer said.

The new store will have a hula section, Hawaiian treasures, a laau section "and the lomi people will be there," a contemporary Hawaiian art wall, and a section called Na Mele Nei, for "anyone making music in Hawaii. They don't have to be Hawaiian. It's just about making music," Meyer said. Many of those entertainers will have the opportunity to perform 2 to 4 p.m. Sundays in the amphitheater adjacent to the store.

The School Street Native Books location won't be left vacant. Meyer still has the lease on the space and was happy to assuage the lost-business concerns of the folks at nearby Helena's Hawaiian Food with news that a bunch of Hawaiians would be taking her place. Nonprofit organizations such as the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association; Ilio Ula O Kalani, a coalition of native gatherers; and Halau Lokahi, the Hawaiian Charter School, will be among those moving in.

Na Mea Hawaii's other locations are at Fort Street Mall, Hilton Hawaiian Village and Lahaina Cannery Mall on Maui.

Mokiao believes that despite the shrinking of the hui, this step is a good thing.

"It's a positive move and Maile's willing to shoulder the responsibility," Mokiao said. "It's good because she started the whole thing. She was the forefront person to put together a group like that. She was the visionary."

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


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