As part of a plan to contain the spread of COVID-19 throughout the Hawaiian islands, Governor David Ige issued two orders that significantly impacted the way Hawaii does business:
- A “stay-at-home” order that took effect March 25. It both 1) required residents to limit trips outside of their homes to essential tasks and 2) shut down “non-essential” businesses.
- A mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals to the Hawaiian islands, including interisland travelers.
While the first order limited the kinds of businesses permitted to operate, the second order effectively limited the potential customer base in Hawaii to local shoppers. Although some arrivals from the mainland and other destinations have continued, many tourists chose to cancel or reschedule their vacations in the face of the surging pandemic.
For a state that counts on tourism for 23% of its economy, this change has been significant. If you drive by Maui’s Kahului Airport, you can visibly see the effects of this order: 18,000 rental cars lined up in the surrounding fields with no one to rent them.
In order to illustrate just how COVID-19 and the state’s response are affecting local businesses, we reached out to a few entrepreneurs and business owners. We asked them what they’re seeing, how they’re responding, and what they think the future holds for the state of Hawaii. We’ll share their thoughts in a series of Local Spotlight articles.
Our first in the series takes us to the island of Maui, where we talked to the owner of the brick-and-mortar store, Indigo Paia.
Meet Caramiya Davies-Reed: Artist and Owner, Indigo Paia
Approved Freight Forwarders: What were you doing before the COVID-19 pandemic?
My family and I have had Indigo for 15 years. When we first started, we would go to India, I would design stuff and then we’d bring it back to the store and sell it. My parents have also worked with Afghani refugees who live on the refugee camps of Western Pakistan to make rugs, which they import and sell at Indigo. The wool used is hand-spun, high mountain wool which is dyed organically with vegetable dyes by a Turkman dyemaster. Each carpet is uniquely original with traditional, modern and tribal motifs.
Additionally, my husband, Daniel Sullivan, is a photographer, so we have all of his photography within the store.
The store has always reflected where we are creatively. So Indigo right now is tons of rugs, tons of photography and whatever I’m making at the time—watercolors, handmade apparel, notecards, embroidered pieces, t-shirts, stickers and more.
Approved Freight Forwarders: And how has your business changed since the stay-at-home order?
We closed right before we were told to close—about two days before—because I just felt so conflicted about being open.
The big thing we’ve been doing is making face masks. I’m really involved in the online sewing community, and, at first people were being told not to make masks. Then, all of a sudden, the message became “masks are better at keeping everybody safe.”
I first started making masks for medical workers. I made a hundred at first [on a volunteer basis], then I just started asking for donations. At that point, I was able to make another 300-400, many of which were donated to the hospital. Sometimes I wouldn’t even know where they were going. People would just send a donation, pick up the masks and they went everywhere—all over.
Then, when we started asking everyone to wear a mask, I made a huge push and finally got an online store up. That first week, I had hundreds of orders. It was really all-consuming. The whole family, that’s all we did. We basically got to making about 120 masks a day. By now, I’ve probably made about 1300 masks.
Approved Freight Forwarders: That’s an incredible number. And what has it been like to go from being an artist to mass-producing these masks? What has it meant for you?
As an artist, I had to kind of reclaim the mask-making. I made one super-fancy mask that was all hand-embroidered. It’s a complete luxury item. It’s not necessary at all, but it is something you wear on your face, so it feels representative [of who you are].
Because we can’t smile right now. With masks on, we have no facial features. It’s so hard to connect in this time, but we all really feel like we need to. When I pass somebody, I want to smile at them and be like, “It’s okay. I see you.” And it’s so weird to have that taken away.
These fancy masks, they’re my smiles. I have ridiculous fabric stashes so now I’m going to pick out my fancier, more fun fabrics and make masks that are a little bit more happy and fun.
Approved Freight Forwarders: Have you had any trouble getting the supplies you need?
This year, I hadn’t planned on buying any fabric. I have a really big fabric stash, and I was just going to use what I had. And then [COVID-19] happened. So I have bought some fabric. I pulled everything I could from the store here—Maui Discount Fabric. And then I ordered some online. What helped was that I had time. I wasn’t in a rush because I had so much in stock already. If you’ve lived here for a long time, you’re never trying to get anything here quick because you know better.
The one thing I didn’t have to buy was elastic. I used to make custom swimwear so I have rolls and rolls of elastic. I donated tons. Any seamstress I know has gotten a roll from me. I almost got rid of it all a while back, but I luckily had it because I was able to use it.
Approved Freight Forwarders: And what are your plans for the future?
We tried to open [once restrictions were lifted], but there is just nobody around. We’ll try again next week with extremely limited hours.
We also have a website. The one good thing [about the situation] is it forced us to really get stuff done that we have been putting off forever. We’ve put our website off for 10 years and, all of a sudden, now I have a website. So there are some good things. I’m sure that, in the long run, as business owners, we’ll all get more creative and start thinking outside of the box.
Discover More About Indigo Paia and Caramiya’s Other Projects
If you’re in Maui, you can visit Indigo Paia in the Paia General Store building at 149 Hana Highway. They also have an online store available at https://indigopaia.myshopify.com/
For our next article in the series, we’ll be sharing stories from the island of Oahu. If you’d like to see your business featured—or if you’d like to talk about how working with a freight forwarder can benefit your Hawaii-based business, just reach out to us.
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