A Place For All Things Hawaiian

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - May 05, 2005
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Maile Meyer, Sandra Suedel, Elena Shinagawa,
instructor Germaine Haili, Cristina Valenzuela and
Sweetie Osorio in a Hula for Life class

“We love Hawaii, we love being in a store that features only product from Hawaii, and our core is Hawaiian culture,” says Maile Meyer, owner of Native Books Na Mea Hawaii.

The 5,000-square-foot boutique sells books, clothing, lauhala bags, muumuu, stationery, stickers, framed art work, CDs, DVDs, videos, lotions and soap. Meyer is like a sponge that absorbs all the culture that Hawaii has to offer, and she shares that with her 15 employees and many customers. Her goal is to provide cultural educational opportunities for all.

“We’ve been doing cultural programming at Native Books Na Mea Hawaii for years,” says Meyer. “I think of it as events for locals — that tourists are thrilled when they manage to stumble across.”

Hula, lomilomi (massage) and Olelo Hawaii (Hawaiian language) are some of the ongoing classes people can take for free at the shop. Her staff is encouraged to take part in the workshops which makes all the cultural knowledge a firsthand, hands-on experience.

“It shows you there is a higher level of consciousness,” says Meyer. “We are trying to deliver the experience. We are doing it for ourselves first. Plus, if we don’t show up, why would a visitor want to go?”

Hawaiian culture is something that is lived and practiced daily at the store. Del Ching, store manager who has been with Native Books for eight years, was thrilled to be among 25 people to attend the Monday night Hawaiian language class that began April 18 and continues through May 23.

Events coordinator Cristina Valenzuela also acknowledges the instructors who come to teach the classes.

“Workshops are offered out of love of what they want to share,” explains Valenzuela. “It’s also a commitment from the community to want to learn.”

Native Books was born 15 years ago when Meyer read the book Nana I Ke Kumu and realized that her life was being lived in the Hawaiian way through her family traditions, and that she was Hawaiian. So she started Native Books to share Hawaiian ways with others. It was also a great way to have a meaningful job with flexible hours so she could take care of her daughter, Emma. Meyer, who is the third of seven children, grew up on the Windward side of Oahu. She has a master’s in business administration in marketing and arts management from UCLA, and a bachelor of arts degree in design from Stanford University.

The Kailua resident and Punahou graduate says it was her mom who was the original patron of the arts.

In 1995, when her third child, Hannah, was born, the shop became Native Books and Beautiful Things. For the past 22 months, it’s been Native Books Na Mea Hawaii.

One of the lessons she’s learned is to understand what it takes to financially run the business.

“Be financially conservative, and be clear on what it takes to sustain yourself,” she adds. “Know when a business is not working.”

Meyer credits her husband, Michael Broderick, for his support to let her fulfill her vision.

“When there are Hawaiians in a place, it feels different; everyone is always welcomed,” she says. “The task to educate rests on resources like us. We welcome the opportunity to help people understand what makes Hawaii so unique.”


Upcoming events:

• May 7, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Musical performance by Terrance Tom

• May 7, noon to 1 p.m.: Feather Lei artists Mary Louise Kekuewa and Paulette Kahalepuna sign copies of their book and demonstrate lei-making.

• May 7, 1 to 2 p.m.: Author Judy Dela Cruz signs copies of her book, Crochet Lei Making In Hawaii.

• May 8, 1 to 2 p.m.: Author Shirley Parolla signs copies of her book, Remembering Diamond Head, Remembering Waikiki.

• May 28, 10:30-11:30 a.m.: Growing Native Hawaiian Plants in Your Own Backyard.

Native Books Na Mea Hawaii at Ward Warehouse is open 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday (596-8885).

The Hilton Hawaiian Village store is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily (949-3989).

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