ANAHOLA — Small businesses have been growing all over Kauai. Now some new enterprises are sprouting up in Anahola.
With help from the Micro-Enterprise Assistance Program (MEAP), business entrepreneurs are finding affordable rental space on 10 acres of Hawaiian Homelands, in the quaint Anahola Market Place.
“We thought we should put together a program that is conducive for local small business that might have a challenge or a passion,” said MEAP program coordinator Robin Puanani Danner, director of the statewide non-profit Homestead Housing Authority, which owns and operates the outdoor marketplace.
The year-old MEAP initiative provides business training classes, access to federal loans through non-profit partners, and affordable retail space, according to Danner.
To encourage and support beginning micro-enterprises, seven renovated shipping containers at the site serve as inexpensive retail space. Some containers were donated, while others were obtained with a community loan fund through a partnership with the Community Development Financial Institution.
The renovated containers are freshly painted with neatly installed doors and windows, providing unique charm and cozy interiors adorned with murals, plants and — most importantly — local goods.
“It’s just incredible what these folks do with their creativity,” said Danner. “It’s amazing what they can do with a sea container.”
The 8-foot-wide containers, measuring 20-, 30- or 40-feet-long, started arriving at the site in May to be renovated into individual shops. Store owners pay between $250 and $450 a month, which includes utilities, depending on the container size.
Donna Miller offers Reiki energy work and healing sessions at her small shop, Donna’s. She also sells crystals and local art, such as her husband’s stained glass.
“It’s very healing, and I’m looking forward to offering it to the community,” said Miller. “I put an ad on Heartbeat of Kauai, and other than that it’s just through word of mouth.”
Her shop opened just two weeks ago, but visitors and locals are already finding their way there.
“I think it’s going to really start to boom,” Miller said. “They’re offering more and more to the community. It’s a place that people are going to want to stop in and hang out.”
Another business, called Kauai Jungle Jems, has operated in the Anahola Market Place since June. Crystal-Rain Belmonte and Mala Myers sell handcrafted jewelry and lei created with locally gathered seeds from their 20-foot-long store.
“My target market was tourists in the beginning, but I’ve had a lot of locals come in,” Belmonte said. “It’s fashion friendly, most of them are 30 bucks.”
The Anahola Market Place was originally established in 2007 after an old dump was cleared. About three tons of cars were removed and its appeal was improved as a safe, inviting atmosphere. Now it has a certified kitchen. Existing buildings have housed a successful thrift shop and a beauty salon for the last few years.
“My business is 100 percent locally sustained,” said Windy Kirifi, cosmetologist and owner of The Edge, a hair-styling salon operating here for nearly three years.
“I’m super excited to grow Anahola, and I’m super excited to push our community out from where it is today,” Kirifi said. “Doing this is definitely a start in the right direction.”
The Hawaiian Homesteader has been cutting hair for 27 years and has future plans to expand her enterprise by starting her own beauty school on Kauai.
She received a Native Hawaiian Advancement loan and brought all her equipment to the Anahola Market Place. The building that houses her beauty salon is split with Hawaiian Community Assets, who acquired an old drug house from the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands, according to Kirifi.
“They (Community Assets) get you ready to buy a home and help you get your credit together,” Kirifi said. “They are an amazing, amazing resource for people. They helped me buy a home and build my credit from nothing.”
The Anahola Market Place is also the site of the tiny home pilot, where some are hoping to accommodate Native Hawaiians and resolve the island’s affordable housing issue with small residences.
“For us, it’s the largest native Hawaiian Homestead community on the Kauai and we’re really proud of that,” Danner said. “We think that’s something all of Kauai can be proud of.”
“We want Anahola to be the gateway to the North Shore,” the Native Hawaiian added. “We’re not waiting for economic opportunity to come to us, we want to try to create it right here in our little area of Kauai and build it out slowly but surely with really affordable opportunities for local craftsmen and local businesses.”
Their goal is to have a regular farmers’ market up by August, with future plans to open a restaurant, a laundromat and more shops with locally handcrafted products.
“We hoping to build out an open-air marketplace of local people providing for their families through commerce,” Danner said. “We’re just getting started, but we’re open for business.”