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Ola's Hanalei: Two Months To Go, Rain On the Way

Ola's Hanalei
Ola's Hanalei

A plucky little gallery on the Hanalei River is mighty glad not to have seen flooding over the weekend.  Still, it’s a surprise to area regulars that Ola’s Hanalei, known for its array of fine art and crafts, will be closing at the end of October.  HPR’s Noe Tanigawa spoke with the owner of Ola’s yesterday, as intermittent downpours fed a rising Hanalei River.

Ola's Hanalei
Credit Ola's Hanalei
Sharon Britt saw this in the normally tidy Ola's Hanalei gallery after Kaua'i's catastrophic floods of April 14-15, 2018.

“We’ve put our store back into disaster mode again.”

That's Sharon Britt, the owner and founder of Ola’s Hanalei, a favorite stop for rare and beautiful hand made objects.  Hurricane Lane proved not to be a problem over the weekend, but by Monday afternoon, authorities were evacuating Hanalei Elementary and Hanalei town was emptying out, as heavy rainfall hit the region.  No one was eager to repeat the experiences of April’s historic floods.

Britt:  Because I’m so flood-phobic, ever since the flood, it’s just pack it, unpack it, pack it, unpack it.  We had 42 inches of water, up above your chest!  But it looks good now.  It looks the best it’s ever looked.  That’s the problem.

Britt and her husband, painter and sculptor Doug Britt, have decided to close Ola's Hanalei gallery October 31st, 2018. 

Britt:  That’s the way it goes, isn’t it?  We’re done.  We’ve had 36 great years and being on that river, I live with the thought of it flooding all the time.  No.  I think it’s our time. 

Bitt:  It was such a great little gallery.  I opened it in 1982 when I was 29.  I really feel like we had the golden years of Hanalei.  The people that came through there, interesting, cool, people from around the world and now it’s just cheap tourists.  It’s not what it used to be.

Ola’s Hanalei opened ten days before Hurricane Iwa.  Britt says she was sitting in the gallery after ten great days, in tears, with Doug saying, “We have to put a sign up now saying we’re going out of business!”

That was 36 years ago.  Hurricane Iniki caused a year long shut down while the gallery was rebuilt. 

Britt:  I don’t know who said it but, humor is terror, looking back at it at a later date.  That's why I can laugh about all this at this point, right?

A good portion of Ola’spieces were created by Doug Britt.  His maritime related paintings and sculptures should continue unabated; we may see more in Honolulu henceforth.  Other works in the gallery were from a select group of handcrafters Sharon Britt discovered when she managed Following Sea Gallery in Lahaina.  Britt says she carried on the idea of Following Sea’s owner, Michael Gibson.

Britt:  I carried all the same artists, they were incredible, wonderful people, and we were all friends for 36 years.  We’ve all aged together, and some of them have passed on, a lot of them are retiring.

Britt says they didn’t even try to sell the gallery.

Brit:  It was just a wonderful ride, and it's been such an amazing experience, so we feel really good about just kind of letting it go Poof!!

Ola's Hanalei closes October 31st, 2018.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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