Art of Thrift on Maui

While tourism was slow to rebound initially after the 2008 crash, Hawaii has survived the economic doldrums fairly well and tourism has been up 20% in recent months, due to Mexico’s drug cartel violence spreading into tourist areas.

There were a few Hawaiian casualties of the economic crisis though.  Aloha Airlines just up and closed it’s doors one morning in 2008 and left passengers and employees in the lurch. Then, by the start of 2009 Hawaii’s real estate market took a stiff hit and foreclosures were plentiful, and still are.

One industry however, the Hawaiian recycling industries – meaning thrift, consignment and antique businesses, are booming! Let us not forget those numerous garage sales are perfect before and after stops for beach-goers too.  If taken with a sense of adventure you can certainly find some treasures at a very nice price while on vacation in the middle of the pacific!

The current economic reality being faced by so many has made “gently used” all the rage.  And, whether buying or selling recycled clothes, furniture or other products to save on money or make some, it’s a win-win for everyone.  Of course, this trend is not something to make NY, Paris and Rome any too happy, because second hand shopping has gone from a hobby / college scene to once again a leading influence in fashion, or at least a helpful guide to coerce it towards more useful, practical indulgences.

Nowhere are there better offerings than on the Hawaiian Islands.  The two most populated islands, Maui and Oahu, both offer a slightly different fare with regards to their vibe and selection of merchandise.

Maui reminds you of that divine dichotomy that is found in the areas of Venice and Marina del Rey, CA. On Maui, Kihei and Lahina have a rebellious, artistic edginess, like in Venice, and then there are spots like Wailea which tend to remind you of more refined areas like California’s Marina del Rey.

Once we arrive on Maui we usually begin by looking at and the Maui Times for anything in particular that we might be looking for as well as what garage sales are going on or are up coming. Wailea, Hana, Makawao and Kula are known for their estate sales.  Old money up there can make for a great opportunity to discover some amazing Hawaiian art and collectibles offered for sale, not to mention some high end handbags and shoes as well, often times with the tags still on them.  We decide what sales to hit on our way in and out as we make up the the itinerary for the day.  Depending on the weather we might just spend the morning thrifting and hitting garage sales and the afternoon at the beaches nearby.  The good thing about Maui is you’re never too far from the beach.

Our first stop is Savers, a thrift store on Dairy Road in Kahului, where we use their special Savers card for an extra discount on certain days and for certain types of items.  It’s well worth it and you will not be disappointed.  They have a great selection of used and nearly-new merchandise.  It’s well displayed and is more like a mall-style department store it’s so organized and clean.  They had an image overhaul a couple of years ago and it’s done wonders for the “thrift experience” on Maui.  It’s a rare occasion that I leave this store empty handed.

Every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. there is the Maui Swap Meet down by the Kahului Beach Harbor, (50 cents admission but kids under 12 are free!).  It’s usually worth getting up a bit early to hit the Swap Meet first before the garage sales you’ve planned on searching out.  4 acres and 200 vendors.  Get breakfast there, or at least a snack.  Try some of the local food and hospitality.

There are more than just a few places on Maui that are wonderful for finding all types of recycled treasures.  High end art, fashion and jewelry consignment can be found at Elua Nani. Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Fendi, Dior and more is within this store.  Then there is La Jolie Maison in Kihei for art, jewelry, uniquely decadent home decor and luxury furnishings if you’re in the market for larger items to bring back from your travels.  Certainly worth a stop in for a luxurious thrift experience.

These are my personal favorites for a successful discount retail therapy vacation on Maui.  There will be more little stores, like in Wailuku, near the Iao Theater, that crop up from time to time and they will be featured next time.  Happy shopping!