Kauai artist, studio owner wins Ho’okela Award

Since 1991, store owner Joanna Carolan has strived for excellence in her business, Banana Patch Studio.

It’s working. She was recently honored for her dedication with the Ho’okela Award from The Retail Merchant’s of Hawaii.

“It’s very touching and flattering to be recognized for the years of work I have put in to creating the business, but it’s obviously a team effort,” Carolan wrote in an email. “This isn’t something I could have done by myself and this award is about the heart and teamwork that my staff have contributed.”

Carolan has two stores, one in Hanapepe and one in Kilauea, and employs about 30 people. Each store offers artwork from ceramic tiles to paintings and specializes in products made on Kauai.

“Our goal is to reach each customer with aloha and sharing the aloha spirit with visitors and residents is something we strive to do,” she said. “The feedback I’ve gotten is that it’s a pleasant experience for people whether they buy something or not.”

Carol Sleightam, of Portland, Oregon, said she comes to Kauai every year and always makes it a point to stop at the studio.

“We always find something to get,” she said. “The shop is very nice and the merchandise is not over-priced. The clerks are always helpful and friendly. We’ll keep coming back as long as we come to Kauai.”

Sonia Polovina, of Los Angeles, was on her way to Waimea Canyon and saw the sign that reads “Hanapepe — Kauai’s Biggest Little Town.”

“We found this book which is perfect for the babies, and were pleasantly surprised the author was here to autograph the books,” she said. “This was a nice discovery.”

In 1991, Carolan began selling her small print to different galleries across Kauai, but it wasn’t long after she began to create her own business that Hurricane Iniki struck the island. Despite the setback, Carolan continued to create handmade ceramic tiles. Two years later, she established Banana Patch Studio again and received requests for her work.

“I started hand-painting everything myself,” she said. “But as I got more orders, I couldn’t keep up, so I hired more people.”

Each employee contributes to the art and those who visit the store can watch the art created before their eyes.

“All of our handmade ceramics are fired in a kiln and are fired by photovoltaic panels,” Carolan said.

The store also sells bronze hardware, art cards, children’s books, wooden signs and Aloha Spice products. Because her team makes the products on-island, the store and its art are registered under the Kauai Made Seal, which makes the artist very proud.

“It’s a retail experience as much as it is an experience interacting with the aloha spirit,” Carolan said. “That is something really important … to share with people.”

During the RHM’s Ho’okela Award Luncheon, at the Sheraton Waikiki, 350 retailers were awarded for their businesses.

“The Ho’okela Awards are the Emmy’s of the retail industry in Hawaii,” said RMH President Sheri Sakamoto. “Ho’okela recognizes and honors the great work of not only the nominees, but the state’s entire retail industry.”

Larry Dressler, a commercial banking officer at First Hawaiian Bank, nominated Banana Patch Studio for the award.

Banana Patch Studio is open in Hanapepe from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays.

The Kilauea store is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.


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