Lanai’s shop owners: so far, so good

Most businesses in the heart of Lanai City are pleased with new island owner Larry Ellison’s efforts to rejuvenate the economy and his work on sprucing up the town square and company-owned buildings.

Loraina Seghorn, a Lanai clothing and gift shop manager, is happy to see new faces around town who have come with Ellison’s remodeling work on island, as well as the new visitors.

“We need the business to make a living,” said Seghorn, a lifelong Lanai resident, who manages Island Treasures Gift Shop, which sells T-shirts, ocean- and tropical-themed items and knick-knacks.

“Lanai needs that change, someone willing to put in the time and effort,” she said. “(Ellison) brought a lot of jobs to people that were laid off.”

Seghorn was on Lanai when the island transitioned from a pineapple-producing island to a tourism-based economy with two top-notch resorts. She is pleased with the proposed changes ahead.

“It’s great because the next generation, there are opportunities for them,” she said.

In June 2012, the technology guru and billionaire bought 98 percent of Lanai. Residents and business owners say that since the purchase, there has been job growth at the two luxury resorts and other businesses.

This translates to more money spent in Lanai shops and restaurants, which those businesses applaud.

Ellison also hopes to build a third resort, a desalination plant, a second airport runway and more housing on the island. He also wants Lanai to become sustainable, with electric cars and diversified agriculture.

New Lanai business owner Tammy Ringbauer also feels positive about the new ownership and feels like her business, Anuenue Juice Bar & Cafe, couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

“I’m stoked,” she said about her new business, which opened July 1. “I know the population is going to expand. The change makes it more viable for a business to excel.”

Ringbauer, who sells freshly produced juice and smoothies and salads, says she fits in with Ellison’s model of sustainability because of her products’ ties to natural foods.

Her shop across Dole Park in the heart of the city had been an empty space for about a year. She knew of others who sought the space but speculated that her business model fit with the landowner’s future sustainable vision for the island.

For decades-old Pine Isle Market, officials there say they are pleased that Ellison’s company, now called Pulama Lana’i, has been kind enough to let them continue their lease, noting that Pine Isle Market is a competitor to Pulama

Lana’i’s Richards Market next door.

Pine Isle Market’s Kerry Honda said that when the hotels are busy, workers are able to spend more in his store and at Lanai’s other businesses.

“Everything looks positive,” he said of Ellison’s moves so far and his plans for the future.

Another independent market owner, Joan de la Cruz of International Food & Clothing Center, said that so far, Pulama Lana’i has maintained the lease with her business.

“He has been a much better landlord,” de la Cruz said, comparing Ellison to David Murdock, from whom Ellison bought most of the island.

“You paid rent” to Murdock, but “you did everything else,” she said.

De la Cruz said that Murdock did not maintain the buildings, noting that the roof on the storage building near her market leaked. Pulama Lana’i quickly repaired the storage building roof, doing some rehabilitation work as well.

De la Cruz, who was born and raised on the island, said that her father-in-law’s market will turn 60 years old in August. It got its “International” name because her father-in-law was a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union during the pineapple days on the island.

She said the store no longer sells clothes and has fewer offerings than Pine Isle and Richards markets. For example, they do not carry fresh meats and fish.

But the store that still looks like it’s back in the ’60s with dusty old keys for sale, visible from its window, is able to stay alive by “carrying what the locals want.”

Overall, de la Cruz said she hasn’t had major concerns with Ellison’s plans but is unsure on how the desalination plant will work.

She admitted being a bit wary of what the future holds.

“It’s scary. Change is always scary,” de la Cruz said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at