In the Search for Maui Made Products at Whaler’s Village
I went shopping at Whaler’s Village during my annual trip to the west side, and figured I’d do a little ‘Maui-made’ research while I was there. The first store we entered was called ‘Totally Hawaiian’, so I figured it was worth a shot. It was certainly filled with higher-end souvenirs, home decor, wood carvings, and two large displays of buck knives right at the entrance. I asked the shop lady how many of the items were made in Hawaii. ‘Most of them, but, not all of them.” OK, so the Niihau shells are probably made in Hawaii. Then I pushed on and asked her how many of the items were made on Maui, and I got basically the same response. “Well, some of them, but not all of them.” I mentioned I was working on a project about made on Maui crafts, and asked if she could point out the artists that are from Maui. “The guy who makes the ceramic koi fish, this artist over here (pointing to the corner) and the lady who makes the Santas. And probably some others.” It’s not that she wasn’t knowledgable of the store, or trying to be helpful, but identifying artists and origins clearly wasn’t the point of the store.
As I walked around and picked up items, every single item had ‘Totally Hawaiian Gift Store” sticker with the phone number on the back. At least they didn’t have ‘Made in Taiwan’ stickers, but you get the feeling that even if they were, they just took the stickers off. Some items, like the soaps, which already came in nice packaging, had the stickers right over the company’s website. Upon closer inspection, the soap company had actually changed the name on the front of the packaging to Totally Hawaiian. I get it. Someone on vacation gets some awesome smelling soaps from your store and when they get home and use it all up, they will look at the packaging, which they had luckily saved, and will call up your store to order more.
So, we moved on. We walked by Cruise, a Maui Clothing company, and we dashed in at the last minute to look at a cute hat I saw in the window. The store carries a nice selection of swimwear, hats, cover ups and resort-wear (including LeTarte, another designed on Maui company), but the entire center of the store has darling jewelry displays of ‘boutique’ designers, including many Maui-based jewelers. Each display had a sign with the designer or company name, picture, and a bio. The featured designers were Stellar Jewels, Rockabella Jewels, Designs by Fukuda (which I believe now goes by Kamera), Tiffany Chou (from Maui but now NYC-based), and Debra Mack.
I didn’t buy anything (I was already wearing my Eve Black earrings, which I get tons of compliments on), but I bet the store does pretty well with these displays. Buyers these day like to know more information about what they are buying, not less. They want a souvenir from their trip to Maui that they wont also see at Myrtle Beach. Like an unnamed store in the same mall with dozens of vintage-style signs that all say ‘Kaanapali Beach’, but in Wailea they all say ‘Wailea’, and I’m guessing you can find ones that say ‘Key West’ and ‘St. Thomas’.
Two stores I didn’t venture into at Whaler’s Village but worth a mention are Martin and MacArthur and Maggie Coulumbe.
Blogger Tom Rowan recently visited the Martin and MacArthur workshop on Oahu and wrote a really nice post, but here’s a quick recap:
Martin and MacArthur, Hawaii’s longest running furniture making company, has been in business since 1961. The company currently employs thirty craftsmen and everything is constructed here in Hawaii. Only the finest Koa wood is used, all from Hawaiian sources, with a goal towards sustainability. With each piece of furniture sold, a new tree is planted. And the best part, if you are looking for a non-cliche souvenir, according to Tom Rowan “The company offers a full range of quality, high end furniture and there is not a carved pineapple or leaf in sight.”
For more on Tom’s visit, click here to view his post: or go straight to the company website.
Maggie Coulombe, one of Hawaiʻi’s premier couture fashion designers, moved to Maui in 1995 and launched her namesake clothing line and shop in 2000. After more than a decade at 505 Front Street in Lahaina, Maggie moved to Kaanapali’s Whaler’s Village in the summer of 2011.
A Toronto native, Maggie studied fashion apparel design at Ryerson University in Toronto and graduated with the “Designer of the Year Award” in 1990. With designs that mix a bit of tropics with a lot of luxe, Maggie has dressed celebrities on and off the red carpet including Halle Berry and Teri Hatcher. Her creations have been featured in Elle, Instyle, Glitter Japan, and Modern Luxury.
As stated on Maggie’s website,
“ If you are lucky enough to be wearing a Maggie Coulombe dress, all eyes are on you.”
I would add ‘And, if you are lucky enough to be on Maui, you can try on Maggie’s dresses at Whaler’s Village, but if not, you are lucky enough that Maggie sells her pieces online.’
The other fascinating fact about Maggie’s creations is that they are all ‘one size fits all’ and although I can’t attest to the fact that they will indeed fit anyone, a bit of research on her website shows that yes, although you can select the color and quantity, there is no choice of size, even on the bathing suits.
And this recaps my day of shopping at Whaler’s Village, which was topped off by a beach-side lunch at the always impeccable Hula Grill. I highly recommend the mint lemonade!
What’s your favorite shop at the Whaler’s?