When Makawao's Down to Earth location on Makawao Avenue ceased operations, it may have been perceived as an ominous sign for Upcountry business. But Bob Lang, the owner of the building, was never pessimistic. Commercial property is at a premium in Makawao and vacancies last "for about five minutes," he said.
Lang sees three viable business types in the former paniolo town-clothing, jewelry and art galleries. So when the health food store moved out, he began the process of contacting artists and galleries who might want to lease space in The Shops at Makawao.
The first artist tenants were Julie Bunce and her sea glass studio, and wood sculptor and graphite portrait artist Dennis Holzer. This is Bunce's first foray into gallery ownership and she's delighted. Stepping into her Sirens Sea Glass Gallery on the second floor of the shops is a magical experience.
Artists and proprietors of The Shops at Makawao
include (left to right) Dennis Holzer, Julie Bunce, Robena and Peter Rehfuss and Panna Cappelli.
Bunce is a virtual encyclopedia of the history of sea glass on Maui. She will show you her opium bottles from the 19th century and opaque 17th century bottles. She will tell you that red glass is the most rare because it is made from a powdered form of gold. And when you buy a pair of her sea glass seahorse earrings, she will put them into a handmade vintage aloha shirt purse created by her mother, Carol.
Holzer, a multiple award-winning sculptor, has a wide variety of work in his gallery, from photo-realistic turtles to abstract and spiritually oriented pieces. He has entertained clients from all over the world, and one of his works was recently sent to Russia. Holzer also shows the works of Pamela Neswald, Sean Fleming, Ricardo Vasquez and Steven Sundram.
Robena Gallery Maui is the artist's gallery. Robena's husband, Peter Rehfuss, designed and renovated the space that was the former back room and receiving area of Down to Earth. She wants to create affordable and approachable work that will be embraced and desired by a broad spectrum of art buyers. She offers miniatures for as little as $15, and her large original acrylics fetch four to five figures. She is also willing to size the work to her client's requirements.
Robena considers her teacher, artist Dick Nelson, inventor of the tri-hue system, as the gift of a lifetime. She keeps a color cube on her counter which illustrates Nelson's revolutionary color theory.
Panna Cappelli has opened her fourth Maui Hands gallery at The Shops at Makawao. One of the most successful galleries showing exclusively Maui artists, Cappelli uses the largest space at the shops for her new location. Cappelli, a lovely woman with a soothing voice and manner, always wanted to open another gallery in Makawao, but was never able to find a space large enough until the Down to Earth site became available. Lang sought Speas out and it was, as they say, a match made in heaven.
With more than 250 artists, Cappelli believes she has original artwork for everyone-no matter their taste or wallet size.
The shops will be rocking at the inaugural Makawao Third Friday party on Nov. 18. And don't miss their special presentations on Dec.10 during Makawao's annual Christmas party.