LAHAINA - West Siders now have a swap meet right in their own back yard. It's not as big as the one on the other side, but it's got potential and is growing with a spirit of "We Try Harder" behind it.
The West Maui Swap Meet, held on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., is conveniently located under the old Pioneer Mill Smokestack on Lahainaluna Road.
Siu Whitehead is the brains behind the weekly event that was launched a little over a year ago.
The West Maui Swap Meet is held on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. by the old Pioneer Mill Smokestack along Lahainaluna Road.
The 45-year-old busy mother of three is multitalented. She is a realtor salesperson for Aloha Realty Group, owner of "Maui's Finest Craft Fair" at the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort held weekly on Fridays, coordinator of a Lahaina Civic Center gift fair four times a year, a committed weightlifter and state record holder in the bench press and dead lift, and community volunteer extraordinaire.
Whitehead explained the reasons for adding the local exchange event to her overflowing schedule.
"Swap meets are more for the community. People are losing their jobs. They have nothing to do. Somebody got to have something to sell. There are so many talented people out there. They could make things to come out and sell, to make some extra money. Nowadays we all work just to survive," she said.
The community is ever-present in Whitehead's plan.
"There will be a percentage donated to the Realtors Association of Maui Wishing Well Program out of any money I make out of this place. Right now, I'm just paying out. Nothing comes in yet, but when it does, 10 percent will go to the Wishing Well for Maui students," she commented.
Additionally, non-profits, church groups, sport teams and the schools can benefit.
"This in the long run would be good for the community. I am going to invite all the non-profits out there to sell something here. I am not going to take any cut from them. They can set up for free," Whitehead offered.
The cost for the 10-foot by 10-foot booth space to retailers is $25.
Potentially, the location can accommodate up to 100 venders.
"Right now, it varies each week. Some weeks I will have 30 venders, and one week I will have like 20 venders," she explained.
Whitehead has a dedicated following.
Terry and Sue Shirai have been with the powerhouse "since its first day." They sell handmade jewelry. Their prices range from $1 to $80.
Terry, the family spokesperson, speaks highly of Whitehead.
"Siu is doing a real good job with taking good care of us. She is trying her hardest to get customers out there to come into here. She is doing a lot of advertising, a lot of promotional work. I know that all her efforts are going to really pay off someday," he said.
"I like it here because it's not so commercialized. There are a lot of venders here that create their own products to sell. It's more handmade items that we sell here, unlike the swap meet in Kahului where there's a lot of imported items. Most venders here make their own products," he said.
Malia Saiia is Whitehead's sister. She sells tikis and wooden jewelry along with lauhala bags and tapa cloth gift items.
She is enthusiastic about the historic location under the smokestack flanked by two original locomotives once used for the company's sugar operations.
"It attracts visitors," she said.
Swap meet amenities are also drawing crowds, like free parking, free admission and live entertainment from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
With the holidays approaching, it offers a more economical approach to gift-giving and shopping this year.
Local girl Lulu King was visiting her brother-in-law across the street from the grounds.
"I came over to browse. I like this location. They should do this in the evening with more booths, like food booths," she suggested.
"I like the music, too, and you see a lot of people," King added.
Whitehead has big eyes, with expansion in her vision.
"I can take up to 100 (venders) here. We can actually have five rows of booths. There is plenty of room. Right now it's just once a week, but I can open more days if I need to and if it grows," she said
If can, Whitehead can.
To reserve a booth space, call Whitehead at 268-9822.