The company is an economic multi-million-dollar powerhouse. It developed a vision, or mission statement, 25 years ago—before most corporations ever heard of the term.
It has more employees (300) than Maui Land and Pineapple Co.
Some of them appear regularly on national television during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Others are seen by millions of viewers on ESPN during the Maui Invitational Basketball Tournament halftime show.
Hint: its glamorous employees dance the hula.
The company is Hoaloha Na ‘Ehā, named for the four friends who founded it: Michael Moore, Robert Aguiar, Kevin Butler and Tim Moore. Hoaloha Na ‘Ehā owns and operates the Old Lāhaina Lū‘au, Feast at Lele, Aloha Mixed Plate, Star Noodle and a growing catering business.
Michael, lead partner of Hoaloha Na ‘Ehā, has a cultural renaissance story to tell. Indeed, the company does as much to celebrate the Hawaiian culture as almost any.
Knowing this columnist’s roots as a business reporter, Micheal said he figured he ought to talk about the business angle. Luckily, he did—since it is an untold story.
Twenty-five years ago, Michael was a sales representative for a large ocean recreation company on Front Street in Lāhaina Town. The company had operated a luau at the 505 Front Street complex, but after just three months, it decided the luau had no future.
Fortunately for thousands of island visitors, Moore, Aguiar, Butler and Moore thought otherwise, cobbling up enough funds to acquire the rights to the luau—laying the foundation for what soon became the Feast at Lele at 505 Front Street and the Old Lāhaina Lū‘au, which they opened 12 years later next to the Lāhaina Cannery Mall.
Old Lāhaina Lū‘au’s claim to fame is its authenticity. You’ll find no fire dancing there. That’s a Polynesian custom. Hawaiians never danced with fire, according to Michael.
Its pillars of success include keeping the vision, constant research to improve authenticity, continuing innovation, leadership and training (all Hoaloha Na ‘Ehā’s managers learn Franklin Covey’s “Habits of Highly Effective People”), education (teaching the culture to employees so they can articulate it for visitors) and community involvement through gifting.
Ten years ago, according to its Website (www.oldlahainaluau.com), Old Lāhaina Lū‘au had boosted annual sales from $600,000 in its early years to $10 million today. Michael is a bit embarrassed the number is still online. When asked how much the Hoaloha Na ‘Ehā enterprises now take in, he just smiled.
In a few months, Hoaloha Na ‘Ehā will branch out to Olowalu, opening a new restaurant on the site of the old Chez Paul restaurant that shuttered last year. It will specialize in “anything with crusts,” including pizza and fruit pies, he said.
A leading advocate of promoting the visitor industry, Michael volunteered that he is dismayed at the controversy surrounding the actions of Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel General Manager Mike White, who was elected to the Maui County Council last year. People elected White because he was from the visitor industry, noted Michael.
Over the years, there have been only a few representatives from the visitor industry on the council. “Nobody has represented the industry where most of us make our living,” said Michael. “I am a little confused by this… two main reasons people come to Maui is that it is beautiful and has a dynamic culture [and] we should be delivering on these things by supporting the Maui Visitors Bureau.” White has been criticized for a so-called conflict of interest and ethics violation for wanting to increase funding for the Maui Visitors Bureau. The formal charge has been dropped.
With more promotion, Michael believes there will be more visitors—and more dollars spent.
Years ago, there was a saying: “What is good for General Motors is good for the country.” Maybe there should be a Maui version: “What is good for tourism is good for Maui, but only as long as there is not too much development.”
In the popular phrase of the day, what this is all about is: jobs, jobs, jobs.
Columnist Notebook: Old Lāhaina Lū‘au’s contributions to the island culture and its response to an unflattering lū‘au review is chronicled in a companion Voices of Maui column in The Lāhaina News (available online at www.lahainanews.com).