There’s still a lot Andy Melamed wants to do in this life.
Surf in new places. Travel to other countries. Attend concerts in different parts of the world.
But it’s hard to do those things when you’re always working. And since he moved to Kauai in 1970, work has commanded his attention.
“I haven’t had a vacation, per se, in 45 years. A real, true vacation,” he said during a recent lunch at Gaylord’s restaurant.
That’s just the nature of the job when you’re in radio and sales. People need things done, you do them.
“It’s a lively position. Things are always changing,” he said. “If you want to succeed in that job, you have to be service-oriented. You always have to treat your clients like you’re part of their business.”
It’s that attitude that helped Melamed shine as KQNG Radio’s general sales manager for the past 25 years.
But it’s never been just about selling air time for Melamed. It’s been about helping others succeed, about pulling the community together. Organizing, motivating, pulling people together, are among his talents. While he’s loved it, he’ll be retiring, at age 69, at the end of the year, and also ending a career in radio that’s spanned nearly five decades.
He has the drive, the energy, the health and the financial security to chase some dreams. He wants to write more, and wrote a play, “A Dream Come True,” that is being produced by Women in Theater, and is working on a book about what he’s seen and experienced in this life. He’s the man behind an upcoming fundraiser to benefit the Kauai Lifeguard Association. And there’s family to enjoy and places to see.
“I love living on Kauai. I will never move away from Kauai,” the father of three said. “But I want to do some traveling not related to business. My wife (Christine) and I both want to explore new things while we’re still young enough to be able to travel and do things. I want to surf places that I’ve never been able to go to before.”
Radio and advertising
Melamed, born in New York, started in radio in 1968 in San Diego. He moved to Kauai from Oahu, where he was a radio personality and involved in creating marketing campaigns. He enjoyed his life and work there, but when he stepped off the plane on Kauai, “everything went out the window.” It was a green, he said, he had never seen the likes of. There was no traffic to speak of few traffic lights, and everyone seemed to know each other.
“Everybody was primarily very friendly,” he said.
He recalled one Sunday shortly after moving to Kauai, walking down Rice Street, looking around, and realizing the endless possibilities before him.
He was determined not to waste them.
He combined his career in radio with raising money for others. Over the years, he organized surfing contests, fundraisers and events that rallied people behind common causes — sports, nonprofits, education, environment — and integrating the radio station with the community.
“It showed me the power of community and the power of coming together,” he said. “I’ve always taken that to heart.”
While advances in technology have changed how radio operates, some things remain the same.
“People’s needs and community needs never change,” he said. “If you can relate one-on-one to people with relevance for the day-to-day lives, do things for people, they will do things for you. It’s human nature. It really is.”
Key is listening to what the people need.
“You don’t talk at them. You talk with them,” Melamed said.
Melamed’s sales philosophy is simple, but effective: “When sitting down and you’re selling, you want to be able to sit on the same side of the desk as the client. They share information that you can then use to convert to successful marketing and promotional ideas. If you’re just trying to sell them what you’ve got, then you’re missing the point.”
The longer he lived on Kauai, the more he came to understand and embrace it.
“This island has a special spirit and a special beauty and it brings that out in people,” he said.
He recalled the devastation from Hurricane Iniki in 1992, but nothing happened to his Hanalei house. It stood while others fell.
“Houses around me got totally ruined. I felt like I needed to do something,” he said.
So he did.
Melamed created a music video to let the world know that Kauai was down, but not out. Not even close.
As he speaks of that video, his voice cracks with emotion.
“It shows the unity of an island and its people,” he said. “We all tried to pull together. Why? It’s the island, the beauty of this island.”
He event came up with a slogan: “The beauty of our island instills a beauty in its people.”
“This island has its own spirits. This island won’t let things get out of hand. It won’t,” Melamed said. “Some of the people have picked up on that energy. If you’re presenting it with aloha, that is the importance of it. If you’re doing it in the spirit the island wants you to do it in, it’s going to happen.”
Melamed has called Hanalei home for 45 years. Last year, he sold his beloved house there and moved to Wailua Homesteads. Leaving was one of the toughest things he’s ever had to do — but for peace of mind, he left.
“Hanalei to me is the most special place in the world. You always want to share that with others because it was so beautiful,” he said. “The spirit that’s there is amazing. And it opened my eyes to so many different things. It’s in my blood.”
He spoke of olden days of when everyone shared and looked after each other.
But as the years passed, Kauai’s population grew and so did tourism. That was good for the economy, but not so much for North Shore residents who settled there long before. The cost of living climbed. Traffic got crazy. More homes became rental properties.
For Melamed, the magic that was so prevalent when he there was gone.
“The problem with Hanalei is, the infrastructure could not handle the demands of its beauty,” he said. “Living there is almost impossible.”
But Hanalei, and Kauai, still has his heart.
“Yet, I can’t tell you how much I love it,” he said. “Every day I say my blessing for what Hanalei has done for me.”