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Mark Ellman exploring the meaning of ‘Practice Aloha’

By Staff | Jan 14, 2010


WEST MAUI — For the past year, West Side restaurateur, entrepreneur and local philanthropist Mark Ellman has been searching for the perfect recipe to “Practice Aloha.”

He is compiling submissions at his website, www.PracticeAloha.org, for potential publication in a book this summer.

The owner of Penne Pasta, Maui Tacos, Mala Ocean Tavern and Mala Wailea considers the slogan his business motto, and he retails Practice Aloha bumper stickers, shirts and hats.

“The response to the merchandise was really overwhelmingly positive,” Ellman explained.

When customers kept asking about the meaning of Practice Aloha, the idea for the book “popped into my mind,” Ellman said.

“Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what everybody’s opinion and idea is of what aloha means to them?”

“That’s how it sort of just started. We started sending out request letters to a long list of people, and we have close to 130 submissions. We’ll probably get another 30 to 40 more by the time we go to print.”

It’s not an exact formula — defining aloha and the art of its practice — Ellman discovered.

“I’ve gotten so many definitions from local Hawaiians that were totally different — from a kupuna to Keola Beamer,” Ellman said.

The goal for Ellman is simple: “It will offer a new model of behavior based on aloha.”

Barbara Santos is co-authoring the book with Ellman.

“The stories and images on the website come from all kinds of people,” she said, “celebrities, authors, vacationers and local folks. Stories by Dr. Wayne Dyer; Congressman Neil Abercrombie; chefs Bev Gannon, D.K. Kodama, Peter Merriman and Sam Choy; entertainers Willie K, Henry Kapono, Jake Shimabukuro, Tom Moffatt; artist Andrea Smith; and writer Shirley Fong Torres are now on the site to read and enjoy.”

Ellman sent a crew to Oahu to film three of the four website videos from contributors Ambassador of Aloha Danny Kaleikini, Lt. Governor Duke Aiona and actress/filmmaker Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey.

Cindy Paulos, songwriter/author/deejay, wrote a song specifically for the Practice Aloha movement.

“I had written a poem about Aloha, which I submitted to the site, and then the song just came to me… Then I just happened to run into Fulton Tashombe, who could help with the recording and arrangements, and he just happened to bump into Keli‘i Kanealii who recorded it,” she remarked. “Then Mark loved the song and paid to have the video made with Robert Stone doing great work on it.”

Tehani Kahaiali‘i is Ellman’s “ace in the hole” on the project.

“She’s reaching out to people on my behalf and following up. Everyone has busy lives, so she’s been instrumental, especially with her own list. She was born and raised here, and she’s got a great extended family here in the islands. She has been extremely helpful in getting submissions for the website as well,” Ellman said.

Kahaiali‘i is committed to the project.

“I wouldn’t be a part of it if I didn’t have a passion for spreading what the aloha spirit is. We’re trying to share it with the world; let them into our lives; see what our culture is. You don’t have to be pure blood Hawaiian to understand and hold the aloha spirit,” Kahaiali‘i explained

“We’re just trying to share that with the world and hopefully get everybody in harmony to live with each other the way that we do. It’s like the golden rule — treat others the way you would like to be treated,” the 2002 Lahainaluna High School graduate added.

Santos has issued a call for more submissions in a recent press release.

“The Practice Aloha project shares the stories of perfect moments when it was understood what it means to ‘Practice Aloha.’ Ellman invites everyone to share a story or image at www.PracticeAloha.org. A submitted story or image earns a mahalo (thank you) gift of a Practice Aloha sticker!”