Business

Celebrate Hilo’s Entrepreneurs with Black and White Night

November 2, 2012, 11:56 AM HST
* Updated November 3, 10:17 AM
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A town’s soul isn’t found in the suburbs.

To really get to know a place, you must steer clear of box stores, chain outlets, and mega malls. The heart of a town often lies in its oldest district, and Hilo is no exception to that rule.

After surviving the decline of our plantation era, the Great Depression, World War Two, and two tsunamis, Downtown Hilo has emerged as a busy gathering place full of entrepreneurs trying to carve out a living in paradise.

Kuwahara Store was one of the few structures on the ocean side of Kamehameha Avenue in downtown Hilo to survive the 1946 tsunami. Image Courtesy Pacific Tsunami Museum.

From a bustling open market, to coffee shops and art galleries, an area once thought to be in permanent decline now holds the promise of actually being a draw to the island. If you haven’t wandered the streets of downtown lately, now is a great time to start.

Tonight, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Downtown Hilo will come alive in its annual “Black and White Night.” Apart from being a fun night on the town, the event is an opportunity to showcase the many entrepreneurs working hard to carve out a reputation in the area.

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An upscale street party of sorts, the event will feature dozens of shops and restaurants offering samples, bargains, and special guest appearances by artists and authors. If there’s ever a time to get to know area businesses, this is it, as most will be out in full force celebrating their talents.

After decades in business, landmark furniture store Koehnens will be closing its doors. Image courtesy Koehnens Interiors.

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Success in business is never a guarantee, and that uncertainty is exacerbated by the remoteness of our island, and the devastatingly high cost of everything from raw materials to energy. No establishment is immune, as can be seen with the recent departure of retailer Koehnens, Keahou Beach Hotel, Kiawe Kitchen, KFC Pahoa, Baker Tom’s, and so on.

The continued evolution of Downtown Hilo toward a trendy, bustling marketplace is critical to attracting both professionals and businesses that will help our economy thrive and diversify. The success of cities like Seattle and San Francisco is due in large part to their appeal as laid back but “happening” places with a broad selection of original shops and restaurants.

Having a supportive regulatory environment for commerce here is critical, and the Big Island (and state of Hawaii overall) has a long way to go toward becoming friendlier to entrepreneurs. Black and White Night is an opportunity for the public, at least, to do just that.

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