KAPA‘A — Local Kapa‘a business owner Jeni Kaohelaulii considered creative ways to revive Old Kapa‘a Town, which appeared boarded up and bleak during the COVID-19 lockdown.
After seeing other towns painting rainbows on their storefronts as a form of symbolism for their reopening, Kaohelaulii, the owner of a clothing store called Work It Out, was inspired and immediately took action.
Kaohelaulii led the way for the movement, and with her sisters Jasmine and June started painting their storefronts and encouraged 25 businesses to paint rainbows.
This is just part of Kaohelaulii’s vision for the town of Kapa‘a.
Kaohelaulii, who started a non-profit 501 (c)3 toward the end of 2019 called Old Kapa‘a Business Hui, hopes to expand on her vision of unity she began with the rainbows.
Her mission statement is to support business collaborations with other local businesses, including marketing, event planning and to educate and preserve the town’s cultural history. They plan to support community outreach and revitalization projects to benefit the town as a whole.
“We value collaboration, not a competition, even in an overlapping situation, and we have an excellent understanding that we need money spent around us,” Kaohelaulii said.
From Seaweed and Sage in the North End of Kapa‘a to Sole Mates 808 on the south end, 25 businesses followed suit.
“Our primary goal for store owners and employees is gratitude for the support during this time of need,” Kaohelaulii said. “People spending their money is humbling during this time and feels good.”
Jasmine Kaohelaulii Vandermeer, Jeni’s sister, enjoyed driving by the sea of rainbows in the town.
“There just aren’t a lot of places open (right now),” Kaohelaulii Vandermeer said. “It gives our town a feeling of hope.”
Sam Bonanno, the owner of Kamoa Ukuleles, noticed a change in the town atmosphere instantly.
Bonanno, who shut down his operation on March 13, didn’t like the post-COVID-19 atmosphere he returned to.
“There were no people around, and the shops looked quiet and empty,” Bonanno said. “I came in to check on the store during the quarantine, and Kapa‘a looked like a ghost town.”
Vicky Maile Bloxsom was another store owner that immediately was on board with the rainbow movement.
Bloxsom’s fabric store was considered an essential business that didn’t have to shut down during the lockdown.
“It was a great way of letting people know that our town is accepting business,” Bloxsom said. “That is one of the goals of kama‘aina to see what we have in our shops.”
Bloxsom, who used to live in Los Angeles, said she appreciates rainbows in Hawai‘i.
“We forget how lucky we are to see natural rainbows all of the time,” Bloxsom said. “When there was a drought where I lived, we didn’t see one for two and a half years. Now we have the opportunity to see them all the time, and that is another reason we feel blessed to be on Kaua‘i.”
Jason Blasco, sports reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.