Celebrating Business: Aloha Hula Supply with Sue Eldredge
Aloha Hula Supply graces the island as a cottage industry that – I’m amazed to say – still hand-makes, on site in Honolulu, some of their own Hawaiian products! They make ‘uli ‘uli (feathered gourd shakers), ipu (gourd drums), as well as hand-dying their Tahitian grass skirts. They also warehouse and retail a treasure trove of Hawaiian and Polynesian dance supplies.
When Sue Eldredge first visited Aloha Hula Supply, she was a dance teacher with her own studio in Ewa Beach and an MBA (Masters degree in Business) in her back pocket. Aloha Hula Supply’s owner at that time, Steven Kop, evidently had the savvy to know a valuable potential employee when he saw one! He hired Sue to work with him part time in 2008, and full time in 2009, as his Operations Manager. By January of 2013 she had closed her studio and now owned Aloha Hula Supply!
When she arrived, all transactions and accounting were done meticulously, by hand. Under Sue’s management, procedures remained just as precise, but automated with up-to-date software systems, which naturally allowed her to expand operations.
Sue runs a family-style business. Her daughter, Miss Hula Aloha of 2017, serves as Office Manager and frequently dances, representing the business. Sue’s husband Duane picks up all the slack when he gets off work as a teacher, and her sister and mom fill in part time as well. Of the 17 employees, most came originally from Laos, many related to each other, bringing with them excellent hand-craft skills and work ethics. The all-hands-on-deck nature of their operation means that when someone finishes a task in their own corner, they help someone else out in theirs.
For the last decade or so, Sue and Kelina have headed to Japan for 3 or 4 streamlined weekend trips. Between just Thursday and Monday they fly over and return, managing to give 8 Hula and Tahitian workshops in Tokyo and Osaka, teaching people to properly use their dance implements. Since earning the title of Miss Hula Aloha, Kelina creates quite a stir when she performs for them!
When you visit Aloha Hula Supply, ask to see what goes into some of their implements. You will learn and see that 14 hands touch an ‘uli ‘uli before it’s completed. You can also watch artisans hand-sanding laamea and sewing feathers to make ‘uli ‘uli or cutting and cleaning gourds for ipu, not to mention drying hand-dyed Tahitian grass skirts in the sun. What a joy knowing these traditional practices are still being done locally!
For our hula practitioners, know that Aloha Hula Supply carries: pa’u skirts, the hand-held implements dancers use: ipu and ipu heke (gourd drums), kala’au (wooden sticks), ‘uli ‘uli (feathered gourd shakers), pu’ili (slitted bamboo sticks), ‘ili ‘ili (black river rocks as castanets), tiger cowry shells, plus aloha fabric bags for nearly every hula item. They also sell Hawaiian pahu drums made of mahogany, Hawaiian nose flutes and helmet conch shells for ceremony. Tahitian, Maori, Tongan and Samoan implements and costume accessories are also available.
As they say, “Magic happens here at Aloha Hula Supply. We have a very simple formula for success: provide excellent customer service, quality products and a lot of Aloha! Combine this with an atmosphere which reminds you of being part of a great big ‘ohana: a family of Hula and Polynesian dance lovers.”
Operating hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays. If you need to arrange for a special visit after hours on a Saturday, please contact Sue directly to set up an appointment. She can be reached at the store at 808-847-7600.