Besides the natural beauty millions of visitors and thousands of residents enjoy on a regular basis, something else struck Hilo native Mel Ozeki about Kaua’i.
The island’s hospitality industry is much warmer than its counterpart in Las Vegas.
Even some of the former Hawai’i residents who now work and live in Vegas, and there are thousands of them, are becoming more westernized, and don’t always act with aloha from the heart, said Ozeki, editor and publisher of the bimonthly ‘Ohana magazine.
It would seem even more important for a city that annually hosts 32 million visitors a year, with a resident population of 1.6 million, to put emphasis on pleasing its visitors.
Published in Vegas, the magazine’s Christmas issue will have a decidedly Kaua’i focus, with up to one-fourth of the magazine devoted to this island.
Ozeki, who turned interviewee as opposed to interviewer during a recent trip to the island with his wife Emily, said the island’s natural beauty will be the focus of the holiday issue.
With a working title of “Christmas in Kaua’i,” the November-December issue will have stories about the island’s legendary physical splendor, variety of lodging options, and other features.
While on the island, the couple took two helicopter flights, their first ones above Kaua’i, and came down wide-eyed about the island’s beauty that they had previously only seen pictures of or read about.
Maybe even more impressive, Mel Ozeki said, are the “incredibly beautiful things that are free.”
Kaua’i Mayor Maryanne Kusaka, an ‘Ohana subscriber for years, invited the Ozekis to visit Kaua’i, and the Ozekis finally got over here. They have no regrets.
Free samples of the magazine will be available beginning this Friday, Aug. 30, at ‘Ohana Helicopters (naturally) at Anchor Cove Shopping Center in Nawiliwili, and the Eleele Shopping Center, Kapaa Shopping Center and Rice Street Lihu’e locations of Ace Hardware.
Ozeki is also soliciting short stories (200 words maximum, due by this Wednesday, Aug. 28) about the island, and has a local contact, Suzanne Aguiar, 651-1251, fax 822-2105, or e-mail email@example.com.
Ozeki is at firstname.lastname@example.org, 1-702-434-0544 or 1-702-435-8561 (fax), and the magazine Web site is www.ohanamagazine.com.
The magazine is all about the Hawai’i-Vegas connection, with stories about local people wherever they are, he said.
There are 250,000 trips to Vegas made by Hawai’i residents each year, and though the seven-year-old magazine initially was read mostly by Hawai’i people who relocated to Vegas, the magazine is gaining a more mainstream readership, he said.
There are subscribers in 38 states.
Vegas has embraced the local lifestyle in certain respects, with hotels and casinos, notably the Sam Boyd properties, offering Hawaiian entertainment, lu’aus, and putting out the lauhala welcome mat for folks from Hawai’i with special air/room packages that include meals and other affordable enticements.
Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s Poipu Bar and Grill has two Vegas restaurants, and there is an L&L Drive-In, Hilo Hattie and ABC store, Ozeki said.
Once a speechwriter for former Big Island Mayor Stephen Yamashiro when Yamashiro served on that island’s County Council, Ozeki served on active duty with the Hawaii Army National Guard from 1984 to 1994.
“After I retired, I needed a job,” he said when asked about the transition not only from soldier to publisher, but from Hilo to Vegas.
So, the Hilo boy, now 58, who didn’t see his first traffic light until he was eight years old, decided to retire, take his wife traveling, finish an academic dissertation, and move to Vegas to start a magazine for that niche market of Hawaiians in Vegas.
Magazine publishers he met with in the city that never sleeps thought he was either very crazy or very rich to want to start such a publication.
Obviously, he didn’t listen to the publishing veterans. In January of 1996, ‘Ohana was launched.
The first few years were difficult, he admits, even though the magazine grew in paid subscriptions by 6,000 each year.
He put out a call for editorial contributions from the islands, and received one call from each island. Rita De Silva of The Garden Island was the first Kaua’i connection, Ozeki said.
Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 224).