Mana Shares More Than Merchandise

New Waikiki Beach Walk shop connects to culture

By: Dawna Robertson

When it opens this December, Mana Hawaii will showcase a bounty of beautiful locally-made items unique to the Hawaiian Islands. But anyone visiting this Waikiki Beach Walk shop will likely take home Island insight extending far beyond the merchandise.

With 1,600 square feet brimming of books, artwork, woodwork, clothing, hula implements, ukulele and more, Mana will also encourage guests to learn about Hawaiian culture. Shoppers can spend time with local artists and take part in cultural activities taught by practitioners of everything from surfing and hula to ukulele playing and lomilomi massage. The intent is to provide visitors a venue where they can experience the culture and history of Hawaii the way locals would - by witnessing, learning and doing.

“Mana Hawaii is a truly unique way to connect visitors to the Hawaiian community,” noted David Carey, president and CEO of Outrigger Enterprises Group. “We are honored to have a Hawaiian venture as part of Waikiki Beach Walk, and we look forward to giving our guests the opportunity to learn about what makes Hawaii such a special place.”

Mana Hawaii is a joint venture by five locally owned businesses Native Books, Na Mea Hawaii, Original Hawaiian Traders/The Hula Supply Center, Raku Inter-national/Ukulele House and The Lomi Shop.

The partners will also run a schedule of cultural programming, with events such as strum-along ukulele classes held at the store and on the Beach Walk’s plaza. Visitors can learn a few chords of traditional Hawaiian songs while interacting with the teacher to understand the ukulele’s place in Hawaiian culture.

Other unique programs will include hula lessons, sessions on Hawaiian wellness and cultural activities such as weaving - all presented as guests learn their related cultural significance. Hawaiian language lessons and “talk story” sessions will cover distinctive topics such as issues facing the Hawaiian community today and discussions on ocean-related occupations.

“Mana Hawaii is very important to the mix of stores and restaurants at Waikiki Beach Walk,” explained Barbara Campbell, vice president of retail development and leasing for Outrigger Enter-prises Group. “It is, in many ways, the centerpiece of our retail complex because it plays such an important role in giving visitors an authentic Hawaiian experience that can only be found here.”

While the merchandise and cultural activities are what may bring visitors into the shop, Mana Hawaii hopes to connect visitors with the artists and producers who bring contemporary Hawaii to life in their work.

“Mana Hawaii is much more than a store,” explained Maile Meyer, owner of Native Books and Na Mea Hawaii, two of the five businesses launching Mana Hawaii. “We offer access to the Hawaiian community for visitors who want to meet people and experience things that embody the true essence of Hawaii. We want visitors to be able to celebrate Hawaii on a deeper level and feel a connection to our home.”

The owners of Mana Hawaii hope to extend their concept to other islands but not in the traditional sense of expansion. In-stead, with the help of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, they will utilize their experience in launching the Waikiki Beach Walk location to create a business model of collaboration that can be replicated in other locations by other parties.

The $460 million Waikiki Beach Walk redevelopment project will feature an outdoor entertainment plaza, 40 new retailers, six exciting restaurants and four hotels. Phase One is scheduled to be completed in December 2006.