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Making a Home on Kauaʻi During Economic Hardship


Picture yourself on Kauaʻi 32 years ago. People really weren’t complaining about traffic. That’s when Fred Dente and his wife arrived to make their home on the Garden Island. Here's Dente’s work-life story, as it evolved with Kauaʻi’s economy, and finally nosedived this year.

"I was a carpenter for 35 years, and I got hurt bad out in the water, in a body surfing accident and so I was not able to continue working. So I had to reinvent myself. So thank you to the State of Hawaiʻi Vocational Rehabilitation services, I got a really great lady there who helped me to reinvent myself," Dente said.

Fred Dente Kaua'i worker.png
Noe Tanigawa
Fred Dente

"I became a music teacher because I've been a musician for many decades actually. So I started teaching music. And then the way the economy started going, people weren't able to afford lessons anymore. I did really well for several years and then the lessons kind of dried up," he said.

Dente talked about his experience working at Costco, getting laid off due to the pandemic, and the struggle to retain unemployment benefits.

"Now, Kauaʻi is mainly a place for rich people. And there's a whole lot of people here that are working in the tourist industry to support all that. But it's almost like this big, huge division," Dente said.

Dente and his wife are in the process of moving to Washington state. With the median home sale price on Kauaʻi over $1 million, others are making a similar calculation.

This interview aired on The Aloha Friday Conversation on Sept. 10, 2021.

Noe Tanigawa covers art, culture and ideas for Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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