Maui Business Report 2013
(page 1 of 5)
Finding a niche on “The Private Island”
Merchants face unique challenges, but also find advantages in doing business on Lanai.
By Melissa Tanji
Tammy Ringbauer of Anuenue Juice Bar & Café.
Photo: Russell Dejetley, Courtesy of Anuenue Juice & Bar
Finding a niche, developing a community of loyal customers, and looking for ways to balance out the high costs of importing goods are a few of the keys to succeeding as a small business on Lanai, merchants say.
Island Images Salon
Photo: Courtesy of Island Bar Salon
With 98 percent of the island’s lands now owned by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, and a majority of jobs tied to the Four Seasons resorts at Manele and Koele, it’s easy to forget that “the Private Island” is home to a thriving community of more than 40 independently owned businesses serving Lanai’s 3,100 residents.
Merchants revived the Lanai Chamber of Commerce in 2012, producing an island business directory as one of its first projects, with help from a grant provided by the county Office of Economic Development, said Chairwoman Alberta de Jetley, a farmer and publisher of Lanai Today.
The high cost of importing goods to the island remains one of the biggest challenges of doing business on Lanai, many said.
“We have to order everything,” said Neda Rajaei of Island Images Salon, who said she can pay three times more for an item like peroxide than regular salons.
Pine Isle Market President Kerry Honda said around 90 percent of his store’s goods arrive by barge, while perishable items are flown in four days per week.
Honda says he tries keep costs down by tightly controlling his energy, reducing waste, and recycling.
In recent years, Honda has faced pressure from online retailers and big box stores — many younger customers make regular trips to Maui or even Oahu to stock up — but he said Pine Isle serves its longtime customers by stocking larger items like televisions and appliances, and providing personal service as part of its offerings.
“There are some old timers who appreciate it when we deliver and install a T.V. set or microwave oven for them,” he said.
Tammy Ringbauer said she found her niche when she noticed that a shortage of fresh produce and a lack of health-food stores made it hard to eat healthily on the island.
Ordering fruits and vegetables from an Oahu supplier, Ringbauer started selling fresh juices at the island’s Saturday open market. Sales took off, and she plans to open Anuenue Juice Bar & Café in Lanai City this summer.
While doing business on Lanai can be challenging, Ringbauer said it also has its advantages.
“Being in a small community,” she said, “word of mouth travels so fast. People are just passing my number around. It’s awesome.”
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