By Léo Azambuja
The Kaua‘i Store opened its doors for the first time in July 2015. Since then, this Kapa‘a store has become an outlet for at least 150 vendors, showcasing more than 1,500 products. And what’s more important, it’s mostly about local products — 95 percent of them crafted right here on the island.
“We really needed a place for local people to showcase their stuff,” said owner Eric Burton, adding he didn’t “go cheap” while building the store’s décor. He wanted to make sure it would look classy enough to highlight the products displayed. “It makes everything pop.”
Burton said the whole idea for opening the store was about connecting visitors — about 90 percent of his clientele — to local residents who are manufacturing products on the island.
“Our visitors come in and they just are dying for something authentic,” Burton said. Many stores on the island, he said, sell products that have the words Kaua‘i on top and Made in China on the bottom, and it’s all the same stuff.
As Burton put it, the story behind The Kaua‘i Store is not about him, it’s a story about all the people on Kaua‘i who bring their products into the store, it’s a story about people trying to make a living here at $10 an hour, and “necessity being the mother of invention.”
With an incredibly passionate energy, hardly leaving any room in between his words, Burton goes through a list of all his vendors; and he knows them all by first and last names.
“It’s really a community store,” he said.
The range of products offered at The Kaua‘i Store is indeed quite impressive. In one corner, there’s a vast selection of books written by local authors. Throughout the store, you’ll find several displays and shelves with an array of locally made jewelry, from casual to dressy.
Fine art photography and paintings from North Shore artist Moses Hamilton and Eastside artist Chongolio, moderately priced, give life to walls and displays. Musical instruments, Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian, are everywhere: Musical ipu, or gourds, manufactured in the old Ni‘ihau style, Hawaiian nose flutes, a one-string slide guitar and several other cool stuff.
You could walk in looking like a tourist and leave looking like a local. There are hats hand-painted by local artists, bags, music CDs from local musicians, clothes designed by local designers, Spam T-shirts and even the famous Locals slippers, which are not made on Kaua‘i, but are sold in the store because of their local status, Burton said.
The store also has a vast selection of soaps, recycled crayons, chocolate, candies, macadamia nuts, lotions, sauces, dog food, candles; basically almost anything you can imagine. And get this; “Two thirds of the products in the store is made by women,” according to Burton.
“We thank the people who buy here for supporting our local families,” he said. “This is not a faceless corporation, that dollar is going to go right to a single mom over here who is putting her kids through school.”
The Kaua‘i Store is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The store is at 4-1191 Kuhio Hwy, Suite 101 in Kapa‘a, just north of Burger King. Call 631-6707 or visit www.thekauaistore.com for more information.