By Léo Azambuja

In a safe community, we can go about our daily lives without fear, high risks and harmful experiences. A safe community fosters positive relationships and promotes personal and financial growth. A safe community creates an environment that encourages people to achieve and even surpass their dreams.

This is exactly what Warehouse 3540 in Lawai feels like — a safe “creative community marketplace.” This charming retail space brings into striking synergy several local artists, crafters, merchants and food trucks. The result is quite an experience. You may stop there to shop or to eat, but it is your soul that will leave fulfilled.

Warehouse 3540 manager Leah Brown

“We have 14 shops, most of them first time owners,” Warehouse 3540 manager Leah Brown said. “We just want to create a space for people to open a small business.”

Warehouse 3540 is a spacious metal building built in the 1950s, which used to house an aluminum and jealousy factory until Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1992. Ty and Ariana Owen bought the building in 2013, and since then have given it more than a facelift; they gave it a new heart and soul. With the help of Brown, they have turned it into a magnet for Kaua‘i “makers” — a creative band of people who love to make artful things.

The idea was much more than offering a retail space. It was to provide an affordable and attractive place for locals to open a new business without huge financial risks. It was also to create a family where everyone helps out each other.

“We’re very close. We have meetings with everybody. Every morning I go from store to store, I see how they’re doing, we have lunch together,” Brown said.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone; landlords, management and tenants, as well as the clientele. Four of the shops are what Brown calls “incubator spaces.”

“They’re smaller shops than the rest of them, and they get to stay in those shops for two years,” said Brown, adding the model is to encourage people to start a small business in a safe space with low rent, to figure out the details of owning a small business, and then move on to another location and grow.

“We want to encourage them to dream about expanding and growing, and not just staying in this safe little space,” she said of the business owners occupying the incubator spaces.

There is also comfort for all kinds of foodies, whether they’re looking for an exotic and healthy meal, a colorful sweet treat or a punchy caffeine fix. Warehouse 3540 currently hosts four food trucks; Kickshaws, Kauai Poke Co., The Fresh Shave and Kind Coffee Co.

Warehouse 3540 hosts a Community Market every Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when farmers and other makers on the island come to sell their goods. On Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a Pop Up attracts more vendors. And on the second Saturday of the month, a Night Market brings live music, food and additional vendors from 6 to 9 p.m.

“There’s so much talent on Kaua‘i, it’s pretty amazing,” Brown said. “They just need a stage or a platform.”

She said we all on Kaua‘i are all looking for that unique experience, and what Warehouse 3540 has to offer is unique.

“Our food trucks are excellent, our coffee is excellent our shop owners are amazingly talented. It’s worth checking out,” Brown said.

Spoiler alert: Warehouse 3540 owners bought the old Lawai General Store, and the plans are to reopen it soon.

Warehouse 3540 is at 3540 Koloa Rd. in Lawai. Visit www.warehouse3540.com and follow them on Instagram.