Aloha from Lanai
Pineapple Isle artists and entrepreneurs use the Made In Maui County Festival to spread their wings
KAHULUI — For a small group of Lanai artists and entrepreneurs, this year’s Made in Maui County Festival was a chance to showcase their talents beyond their home island.
“It’s always fun to represent Lanai and share what we do,” said Cory Lovejoy, who organized a Lanai Chamber of Commerce-sponsored booth that she shared with four other Pineapple Isle vendors. “It’s a good representation of what we got going on on Lanai. It’s fun to work with everybody.”
While the festival has had a single Lanai vendor for the past two years, this year’s showing marked the biggest presence of Lanai vendors at the festival, now in its fourth year.
“We’re really happy about that,” said Teena Rasmussen, Maui County economic development coordinator.
Of the 140 spaces in this year’s show, 35 went to new businesses this year, Rasmussen said.
More than 10,000 people passed through the gates at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center over the event’s two days, according to organizers.
For the Friday afternoon buyers preview, the MACC parking lot was full. More than 550 registered wholesale buyers from across the state and as far as Canada attended, marking a 65 percent increase over last year in buyers preview attendance, according to organizers.
By about noon Saturday, Dajia Quitevis had sold out of her seaglass jewelry and was down to the last pair of fish-scale design earrings in the Lanai Chamber of Commerce’s #LanaiMade space.
Her other offerings, including gold-filled and sterling silver necklaces, earrings and bracelets with Tahitian pearls and semi-precious stones continued to draw buyers.
“It’s been good,” said Quitevis, a Lanai native who started Honey Love Lanai about two years ago, turning her hobby into a business. “Maybe next year I’ll get my own booth.”
Quitevis took silversmith classes when she was on Oahu for a few months after pregnancy complications with her youngest daughter. Now, while her husband works full time, the stay-at-home mother of three girls does the soldering for her handmade creations, which are sold at the Local Gentry boutique in Lanai City.
She also sells her jewelry online through Facebook and Instagram and at events like Fifth Fridays and Aloha Festivals on Lanai.
Lovejoy, whose business is called Cory Labang Studio, was selling zippered pouches and clutch bags made of vintage Hawaiian fabrics.
Her grandmother taught her to sew when she was 5 and she began collecting fabric as a teenager. Lovejoy said she has made “maybe a little bit” of a dent in the collection of fabric, vintage clothing and patches she has collected over the past 20 years.
Among her bags for sale at the festival were one made of vintage fabric from McDonald’s and another with fabric from Pizza Hut. A vintage Kahului Railroad aloha shirt contributed to a couple of bags.
Lovejoy also had some of her poetry on sale, along with Darth Vader pineapple stickers and Darth Vader Primo hats by photographer Phillip Sowers.
Among those buying Lovejoy’s bags was Maui resident Sunny Cabello, who shopped with her 4-year-old son.
“I thought it was well made and perfect for what I needed it for,” Cabello said. “You don’t really see those here.”
She was waiting for the crowd to thin before returning to the Lanai booth to get a closer look at the crocheted creations from the Lanai Art Center.
“It’s not only to support them,” Cabello said. “It was nice stuff. They’re so friendly, and the quality is good.”
Bill Moore, executive director of the nonprofit Lanai Art Center, was hoping to sell most of the 230 pieces of art representing eight artists. Along with the crocheted dolls and purses, the artwork included ceramic ornaments, candles in Spam containers and a handmade quilt.
Some of the ornaments were made by students in an art program in the school.
“We do have a lot of talented people,” Moore said.
He said that the new Lanai vendors were encouraged to be part of the festival by Lanai resident Alicia Blackwell, a weaver who participated last year.
“It was highly successful. We got wholesale accounts,” Blackwell said. “We didn’t hesitate to come back.”
About six months after last year’s festival, she said, an Oahu company placed a wholesale order to provide gifts for a group of 200 staying at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai.
A couple of hours into the buyers preview Friday, Blackwell had already received another wholesale order for her weavings.
Her Earth and Sky Weaving shared booth space with Island Leather, run by her husband, Mas.
Blackwell said this year’s festival was the best she has attended.
“They’re beautiful at supporting the local business,” she said. “Young people are on their staff. They have all these social media ideas.”
Tammy Ringbauer, owner of Anuenue Juice Truck, sold wellness shots of Tumeric Tonic, Beet Carrot Boost and Perfectly Parsley from the Lanai chamber booth.
She relaunched her business, which is Lanai’s only food truck, at the end of September.
“I couldn’t bring the truck, but I’d like to,” she said. “Maybe next year.”
She sells cold-pressed juice, smoothies and acai bowls from the truck, which is parked at Lanai High and Elementary during the week and at the Saturday market.
“I’m really happy to be back in business,” she said. “I feel like maybe everybody’s back to a bit of normalcy. With the hotel closure, there was a lot of uncertainty. People weren’t necessarily spending as much money. The economy was kind of stuck. Now it’s starting to come back.”
Most of her customers are Lanai residents, many who had been working at the Four Seasons hotel before moving away during the renovation.
“The community has been asking for me to come back,” Ringbauer said.
She has lived on Lanai for eight years since moving from Maui, where she lived for 13 years.
In the mix of pizza, fine dining and plate lunch offerings on Lanai, “I’m really the only healthy option,” she said.
Along with wellness shots, Ringbauer sold notecards with her collage art and hand-painted signs.
“It would be great for us to have our own booths next year,” she said. “It would be cool to see that progress.”
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.