Iselle affects business, not spirit, at Made in Hawaii Festival

Made in Hawaii Festival, Blaisdell Exhibition Hall

Hundreds of local businesses are showcasing their products this weekend at the 20th annual Made in Hawaii Festival.

But for some companies from the Big Island, this year’s event is different. While they showed up, like they do every year, this time, they brought a little less.

“The storm affected my business because I couldn’t complete my work,” said Linda Schweitzer of Lauhala Lady Products. “A lot of things, it’s hard to work in the dark.”

“The warehouse leaks as it is, so there was some flooding,” said Jeff Gomes of Hawaii Bookmark.

The loss of power, water and phones in some areas of the Big Island interrupted business and planning for the annual event.

“Even the shipping, because everything got shut down for about a week, basically we had problems with things arriving and finishing in time,” said Kainoa Makua of Na Makua Designs.

With 35,000 people expected at the festival, many businesses rely on the sales and exposure of the event, especially this year, when some are already expecting a loss following Tropical Storm Iselle.

“I’ll probably make a third to 50 percent loss of my business,” Schweitzer said.

“We’ve estimated that about $10 million in business is transacted over the weekend and then with the buyers, the residual income going back to the vendors through the course of the year is about $15 million,” said Amy Hammond, the festival’s executive director.

There are a record 450 exhibitors at this year’s festival and 15 percent of them are from the Big Island.

Hawaii Bookmark is using this event to raise awareness.

“We’ve been using albizia for years to make bookmarks and so I figured we’d do a fundraiser,” Gomes said.

Fifty percent of the bookmarks will go to recovery efforts following Iselle, serving as a reminder to people here what some Big Island residents continue to deal with.

“Big Island, we’re very resilient over there. We’re used to natural disasters, with the volcanoes, tidal waves, all of that. We bounce back very quickly,” Makua said.

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