On Owning A Business in Kailua

Gloria Garvey
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Gloria Garvey

BY GLORIA GARVEY – Yesterday I posted an ironic blog about the Kailua Neighborhood Board’s resolution  to ask the HTA not to promote Kailua as a visitor destination alternative to the more “lively Waikiki” (from HTA’s website.)

My friend Malia Zimmerman picked up the blog piece, “Forget about Kailua,” with my permission, and posted it on Hawai`i Reporter.

Predictably, one of the posted comments accuses me of owning a visitor business (I don’t; but visitors like the business that I am part owner of) and of not reading the resolution (I did).


There is, I guess, a small problem in owning a business in Kailua and also enjoying the practice of writing the odd opinion piece.  One does not, in my opinion, preclude the other.

The real irony here is that the business which I am part owner of was in fact started to serve local people.  There were very few visitors in Kailua when we opened the store, and we opened it in order to be part of the redevelopment of Kailua, as opposed to standing on the outside and criticizing it.  Having skin in the game.

Our thought was to help make sure that Kailua had a preponderance of local businesses, versus nationals, and that it would evolve to serve the local populous without mimicking so many “gentrified” small towns on the mainland.

Our business is a local business.  We make our products here in Hawai`i.  We employ people from Hawai’i.  We help kids with their college educations.  We pay well, and we pay for health insurance for  people who do not have insurance already.  Banks would not lend us money; the debt, which we still have eight years later, is our own.

We live in Kailua, we volunteer in Kailua, we support Kailua schools and Kailua charities (like the Boys and Girls Club).  My business partner almost single-handedly (for three years running)made sure that thousands of Kailuans (and out of towners) could enjoy the 4th of July fireworks — a 65 year tradition that had been abandoned by the Kailua Chamber of Commerce.

If I sound defensive, I am.  No one likes to be misunderstood.  To the people who think we see only $$ signs, I would say that I would be glad to see more $$ signs so we could pay off our debt.

We love owning a store in Kailua.  We see our friends.  We don’t have to drive to town.  We shop locally, supporting our fellow merchants pretty much exclusively.

The health and well being of Kailua’s small businesses has benefited enormously from the visitors who come here.  They are important to keeping stores like ours open, and also stores like Bookends, Lanikai Juice, Kailua Nails, Mary Z’s and even Whole Foods.  There are a whole slew of restaurants that wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the visitors PLUS locals mix that is Kailua today.

Before Kaneohe Ranch began to redevelop their (lion’s) share of Kailua, most of the small businesses here today could not survive.  One example:  My business partner and I helped Lanikai Juice (for instance), which was struggling— in return for juice coupons.  We brought them 20+ years of branding expertise and helped them build the Fresh.Pure.Hawaiian. image they have today.  We helped make it possible for them to stave off the newly arrived competition from the mainland, Jamba Juice.

The local Kailua businesses pay rent to a landlord which supports Kailua, its schools, its Boys and Girls club, its halaus and its sports teams through a foundation like no other small town in Hawai`i has.  The benefit of having a single commercial landlord is that the town was redeveloped with a big picture in mind ( like it or not).  This big picture view gave us new cross streets, more stores and more restaurants.  The money, unlike so many other places, stays in Kailua — at least the greater part of it does– and much of it goes back into the community.

The same people who think that any small business that benefits from the visitor industry was created for the visitor industry aver that the price of housing in Kailua is high because of the visitors.  This is simply not true.  The cost of housing in Kailua is high because it is a desirable place to live, and because all housing in Hawai`i is expensive.  And because it is (for the very most part) built out.  There is a fixed pie.

For those who say they are worried that our cultural institutions are hurt by visitors?  We now have many occasions on which local halau perform — occasions that weren’t there before.  We who live here are interested in the preservation of the marsh, the endangered species, the heiau.  The tourists who visit are respectful of them.

It ain’t perfect by a long shot but then nothing is.  Hawai`i –for better, I think — is a visitor destination.  That means people come to see and enjoy its beauty and many here profess a desire to share our Aloha.  That means we have to take care of the land (we should do better than we do) and the sea and air around us.  That means that our local cultures can be celebrated, seen and understood.

Some have said that tourism is a healing business.  Hawai`i is a place where people come to recover themselves, to relax and to heal. And that is a noble purpose.  We share our aloha with others and they take it home — small gestures of peace from human to human contact, carried back to places faraway.

We are lucky Hawai`i is a visitor destination.  We must share our roads and beaches, stores and restaurants with strangers.  But then we get to live and work here.  How lucky we are.





  1. I am a local, i.e. born here, raised here. Kailua today is primarily transplants or tourists. Mainland transplants and tourists act as if they own the town. Then again they probably do. Sad.

  2. Ms. Garvey, as public relations professional, you are a very talented spin-master. You understand very well how to redirect the reader’s attention away from the core issue (HTA’s promotion of an illegal industry-over 80% of Kailua vacation rentals are illegal) and then cast the Kailua Neighborhood Board members in a negative light with innuendos and mockery. I personally believe you owe every Kailua Neighborhood Board member an apology. Your misrepresentation of the board’s position was a cheap shot. These unpaid and democratically elected residents truly do care about Kailua. They believe, as I do also, that the illegal vacation rental industry is harming our neighborhoods and the community. You might not share that same belief, but I would hope that you at least have the moral integrity to believe our laws should be followed and scofflaws be rebuked.

    • The problem with your thinking is that the neighborhood board did not encourage people to go to illegal rentals. They said to check out Kailua and maybe rent a vacation rental. There are some legal ones in Kailua. The Kailua Neighborhood board is full of self serving residents who see Kailua as their own town that no one else can enjoy. The ironic part is the majority of them are transplants who moved here when they discovered it. Telling a tourism authority that brings a large number of visitors and business to stop promoting a town is overstepping. Kailua will never go back to what it once was, not with the president visting here every year.

  3. shouldn't we respect the peoples' rights to do what they wish to do with their own private property? in this case,as a business?if citizens, doesn't matter if they live on their own property or absent.they are providing a service that is in demand.as long as private property owners do no actual physical harm,there should be reasonable balance.some residents want to use state control to coerce entrepenuers,in this case vacation rental owners to stop a totally private business activity.protectionism amd control over others.

  4. Who own kailua? who were born here, or lived here more than 60 years? Come on! your 60 years or even your family 100 years is nothing comparing to the human history, ask Kamehameha about this. And we will all die sooner or later, nothing you can take away with you, not even a piece of grass in your house, much less kailua. The board can't be said the majority of a desirable destination of human, if you need a vote, try to set it up online, so will find out what the majority say. Think about North Korea and Syria, the dictator just think in your way, that is my territory, my grandfather found this country, Go away Americans! sounds familiar? We all love kailua, but ban the outsiders won't be a solution, cause we were all outsiders before. As far as the law issue, sorry to say that law is illegal as well, cause it is against the constitution “All Men Are Born Free and Equal”, someone abuse the law in a discriminatory and arrogance attitude. You can't judge a visitor will be in worse behavior than a local, that law is based on this judgement.

  5. The neighborhood board voted on NOT advertising Kailua as a place for tourists to STAY, this article twists it and talks about Kailua as a place to SHOP. Tourists can shop on, we love it. But they can stay in resort zoned areas, and let residents compete for limited residential homes and rentals.

    • This is the best argument I've seen yet. During the day – come on by. But as a single girl – fighting the housing market with tourists and the Marines is just awful. There is nowhere left to rent! Check out craigslist or airbnb if you don't believe me.

      Airbnb says the average Kailua renter makes $1150 off of airbnb – and this is a site where you sublet your place a couple days a month.

      • So both of you own Kailua? Who are you to say who can and cannot stay in the town? Why do you deserve to own a house or reside in Kailua over someone else? If you want a house, make more money and buy one. Don't blame tourists and property owners for your problems. Anyone can stay in Kailua since the last I checked, it is America.

  6. They are blaming law breakers for Kailua's problems and the HTA for turning a blind eye to the problem. And last time I checked, America is a law-abiding society. Maybe you should quit crying?

    – People own cars and their tax dollars help fund the roads … it's okay to drive as fast/slow as they want (FALSE)!
    – It's their body … it's okay for them to put illicit drugs into it (FALSE)!
    – They have interest in privately-owned preservation land … it's okay for them to build anything they want on the land (FALSE)!
    – They smoke cigars/cigarettes … they can smoke anywhere they want (FALSE)!
    – It's their house … it's okay for them to run an illegal short-term rental or illegal B&B out of it (FALSE)!
    – etc, etc, etc …

    The residential community of Kailua doesn't have the infrastructure to handle more capacity … so what, it's a free country and it's okay for all the tourists in the world to visit Kailua (TRUE … but just not stay in illegal short-term rentals and illegal B&Bs, some of which the HTA advertised).

    Through advertising, what would happen if State Agencies began to give the appearance they support driving too fast, doing illicit drugs, disregard for zoning laws, or smoking in restaurants? Would we want the KNB to act in the same way as they have with HTA?

    This issue is not about driving cars, doing illicit drugs, owning property, smoking, tourism, business, nor the capacity of a residential town used for comparison in the above analogy. It's not about biased news reports nor Bloggers with hidden agendas.

    It's about the law, silly! You may not agree with the law yet, until it changes, we must abide by and enforce the law, starting with HTA advertisement.


    • Last I checked, the HTA advertisement didn't say to stay in an illegal vacation rental. So your entire post is stupid.

      • Wrong, let make help you not be so “wrong”.

        The HTA marketing material states "If you’re planning a family vacation or you’re traveling with a large group to Oahu , a Kailua vacation rental can be the perfect solution. Located on Oahu’s lush Windward Coast, the Kailua area offers a peaceful alternative to lively Waikiki". What this HTA fails to do is inform visitors that staying less than 30 days in Kailua’s residential-zoned neighborhoods requires properties to have a "non-conforming use" certificate. The HTA is well aware that over 80% of the vacation rentals in Kailua DO NOT have a "non-conforming use" certificate. They also know that over 95% of all visitors (non-residents) STAY less than 30 days in the same lodging accommodations.

        The HTA has a fiduciary, moral and ethical duty to be telling visitors the zoning laws regarding vacation rentals in residential zoned neighborhoods, advise visitors to not stay in illegal lodging and inform them on how to determine if their accommodations are legitimate. At the moment, they are not doing so and that is the issue!

  8. As a mainlander that loves Hawaii, these comments all sound like you feel the author is wrong, no matter which side you are taking. No one can have an opinion if it does not perfectly align with yours. Please try to understand and respect differing opinions of each other, even if they don't agree with you. Our country was based on dialogue and compromise, not rigid, unyielding, ideology. Try to live Aloha,

  9. Dave, I am not sure you understand. The issue is not based upon an opinion. It’s based upon the law. Illegal vacation rentals are illegal! Unfortunately, The Hawaii Tourism Authority has failed to inform visitors that the vast majority of vacation rentals in Kailua are illegal and visitors should not stay in them. Since they are a tax-payer supported agency, they have a fiduciary duty to do so.

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