Coolest Place In Town
Thanks to the vision — and considerable investment — of Andy Friedlander, the longdreamed- for downtown Honolulu arts district is becoming a reality
By Alice Keesing
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Whether it’s enjoying a glass of vino at Hasr Wine. Co.
with (above from left) Kevin Killian, Alvin Au, Grace Oh,
Caron Hatico,Tad Ono and Terry Kakazu, or pastries at
Grand Cafe & Bakery (below left) with Patsy Izumo and
Mona Chang Vierra, Andy Friedlander says there’s
something for every taste in the exciting new
neighborhood surrounding Marks Garage
Meet me at Marks Garage. I’m the one who looks like Santa Claus. Those are the instructions from Andy Friedlander. And yes, he does bear some resemblance to Santa Claus. He’s got the white beard and he has that twinkle in his eye (although Friedlander’s twinkle is probably more wicked than Saint Nick would allow).
If you want to stretch the analogy a little further, you could say that Friedlander has also been something of a benefactor to what is becoming known as Honolulu’s arts district.
The area radiating around Nuuanu Avenue and Bethel Street had been a noman’s land for years; definitely not downtown, not really Chinatown and plagued by drugs and crime. Now it’s taking on a buzz and identity all its own.
In the last year, swanky bars, coffee shops, designer stores, galleries — and even more galleries — have sprung open in rapid succession. And there are more brownpapered storefronts, just waiting to be unwrapped to reveal the latest additions.
Friedlander is widely credited as the guy who got the arts district going.
The idea had been talked about for decades, but aside from Indigo restaurant and the Hawaii Theatre, the talk went nowhere. It doesn’t take long in
Friedlander’s company to realize he’s a takecharge kind of guy. After all, he is cofounder of Colliers Monroe Friedlander, one of Honolulu’s largest commercial real estate companies.
So, frustrated by the lack of action, he went out and bought himself a $2.9 million building smack in the middle of that no-man’s land. After fixing up the 47-yearold Marks Garage, Friedlander set out to find the street-level tenants that would provide the nucleus of an arts center.
So determined was he to get the movement going, he leased a corner spot to The ARTS at Marks Garage for virtually no rent. When The ARTS opened in 2001, people finally started descending on the neighborhood.
“The vision that I’ve had is really to create an area that was not only free of derelicts and drug dealers, but that could be a kind of Chelsea or SoHo,” Friedlander explains as he inhales a black coffee at the Grand Café and Bakery, one of the neighborhood’s new additions.
All of this has to be good for the real estate business where he makes his living, but Friedlander also got involved because of his love of art.
He has been a collector since the 1960s and recently started dabbling in ceramic sculpture himself with a class at the Honolulu Academy of Arts. He brushes off questions about his talent by saying he creates “weird stuff” that now clutters up his home and quickly steers the conversation back to the arts district.
What is going on there is absolutely incredible, he says. You’ve just got to see it for yourself. And so saying, he grabs your correspondent’s girly shoulder bag and sets off on a whirlwind tour.
Hotfooting it down Nuuanu and pointing out the various eateries, Friedlander rounds onto Hotel Street, darts across the road and lets himself into No. 35. There, Dave Stewart is working on his new venture, Bar 35.
As co-owner of the popular Indigo restaurant, Stewart is one of the pioneers of the area. He jokingly calls himself the mayor of Nuuanu Avenue because he can stand outside Indigo and wave to everyone he knows going by.
At the Details Gallery, Andy Friedlander and (from left)
Jamie Mather, Melissa Vicenty and Emily Catey find plenty
of things to take home
“To me it’s the only place in the city that has that feeling of a neighborhood,” he says. “And I like the edginess.”
Stewart leads a quick tour of his new lounge bar with its black leather lounges and dress code sign on the door. “No slippahs, please,” he says, emphatically.
Stewart has stocked the place with more than 100 beers by the bottle from around the world — happy hour is happy indeed with any 12-ounce beer for $3.
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