by Anne E. O’Malley
“It’s a candy store for art lovers. That’s my motto, and has been, from day one, says Ray Charron, owner of Aloha Images, an art gallery located in the Dragon Building in Kapa`a.
Situated in the front corner of the Dragon Building at the corner of the Kuhio Hwy. and Kukui St. in approximately 2,000 sq. ft. of gallery space, Charron displays roughly 500 works that draw people in.
“This is my canvas,” says Charron, waving an arm around the gallery. “I move it around every day. When people come into my space, I’m proud to show it off, tell everything I can about the art.”
Among the 20 or so artists he represents are Steven Valiere and John Holm, both acrylic artists who paint surf themes.
“People who buy them aren’t surfers, but they love the style,” says Charron, who names more artists whose work he sells.
“Miguel and Arozi — they’re my realists. There is the same quality and style as Tabora, but for a lot less money — I call them my poor-man’s Tabora’s.”
Charron also sells paintings by Tim Nguyen, a Vietnamese artist living on O`ahu.
“He paints Hawaiian people in a really loving way. They’re big bruddahs,” he says, and adds — “he actually sells for up to $200,000 — but I don’t carry those.”
The Kaua`i artist Seamus uses Aloha Images as his studio, and has been painting there for as long as Charron has been in business — now going into his 18th year.
Seventeen years ago, Charron walked away from a successful career, managing three Wyland Galleries on Kaua`i. He wanted to do his own thing and now lives it.
He calls himself an imagineer, having adopted the word way before Disney did, he says.
“The true meaning of an imagineer is someone who has an idea and fulfills it,” says Charron. “I created this place because I had a vision of it — it’s a store I created because I want to walk into a store like this.
“Hundreds of people have told me this is the coolest art gallery they’ve ever been in anywhere. The whole idea of my galleries is that every bend you go around, I want you to see something you like.”
You can even buy a painting on layaway.
Charron says he doesn’t sell the art — “The art sells itself. I’m an educator, not a salesperson. I just give you enough information so you can make a decision.”
There’s no pressure here, just talk story, and Charron’s talented in that arena. So much so, that repeat customers call him, and tell him things such as, “When we were there, we did everything — helicopter ride, ziplining — but we found that the most fun we had is two hours in your gallery, speaking with you. You made our trip.”
One visitor came in and stood in place for a while, tears streaming down her face. “You know, what you have here is a healing wall,” she said. Her husband had recently had surgery and she went out to the car and brought him in to see.
Charron is Mr. Aloha, even has his own spin on aloha as an acronym — Affordable Location Original Hawaiian Art. And when he packs your art to ship, he includes a personal note that patrons often tuck behind their paintings when they hang them.
Selling about 40 paintings a month offers opportunity for change in the gallery, giving it a different look daily.
“I work in a living painting. Every day is an adventure,” he says.
Aloha Images is located at 4504 Kukio St. in Kapa`a. It’s open M-F from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and closed on Sunday. Call 808-639-2756 or 808- 821-1382. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.