Business Monday: Pilikana Boutique supports local artists, perpetuates Hawaiian culture

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Step into Pilikana Boutique in Kailua-Kona and you are greeted with shelves of stickers, with flying owls, turtles, Big Island themes and ones with sayings like “Mana Wahine” or “Aloha is a Super Power.”

As you venture further into the shop, it’s a feast for your eyes with Hawaiian-print clothing and hats stacked neatly on shelves, and a collection of locally made soaps and fragrances smelling of pikake and puakenikeni flowers.

Kila Quam started Pilikana Boutique in 2018 after selling her truck and with some family savings. Photo Courtesy: Kila Quam

Jewelry made of black pearls, Ni‘ihau shells and lauhala are artfully displayed on white shelves. Books, journals, cards, key chains, Hawaiian seeds, games, Crocs, lei and toys fill the rest of the shop.

“Nobody really needs anything in this store, but you kind of have to have everything,” Kila Quam, the 36-year-old boutique owner.

Pilikana Boutique opened in 2018 in the Ilima Court off Kuakini Highway and relocated a couple years later to the Brew Block Kona at 74-5606 Pawai Place. Quam started the business as a way to create a space for local and Native Hawaiian creators to display their wares.

  • Pilikana Boutique, located at the Kona Brew Block, solely sells products created by locals and Native Hawaiian artisans. Photo credit: Tiffany DeMasters
  • Pilikana Boutique in Kona hosts monthly workshops teaching the art of lauhala weaving and stringing Ni‘ihau shell jewelry. Photo courtesy: Kila Quam
  • Pilikana Boutique, located at the Kona Brew Block, solely sells products created by locals and Native Hawaiian artisans. Photo credit: Tiffany DeMasters
  • Fresh lei sold daily at Pilikana Boutique in Kona. Photo courtesy: Kila Quam
  • Pilikana Boutique, located at the Kona Brew Block, solely sells products created by locals and Native Hawaiian artisans. Photo courtesy: Kila Quam
  • Pilikana Boutique, located at the Kona Brew Block, solely sells products created by locals and Native Hawaiian artisans. Photo courtesy: Kila Quam
  • Earrings on display at Pilikana Boutique. Photo credit: Tiffany DeMasters
  • Kaya Mockchew, Quam’s niece, works at Pilikana Boutique organizing the shelves Dec. 2, 2023. Photo credit: Tiffany DeMasters

As a child, Quam’s dream was to open a surf shop. But as she got older and spent time working in the tourism industry at Jack’s Diving Locker, the vision of her business came into focus. 


While working at the dive shop, she said tourists would ask where they could buy authentic, locally made products. Quam struggled to think of such a place, despite all the souvenir shops in the area.

“Everything you see is typically imported overseas from Indonesia or China,” Quam said.

After selling her truck and using a couple thousand dollars she and her family had saved, Quam built out her tiny shop with 100% thrifted or donated items.

The mission of Pilikana Boutique is to keep “Hawaiians in Hawai‘i and keep Hawai‘i Hawaiian.”

“I definitely want to be a part of the perpetuation in any way I can,” Quam said. “So everything in here, you’re supporting local no matter what you buy.”


On average, she estimates she spends around $4,000 to $5,000 per month on products at wholesale prices from local vendors. It goes up to about 10,000 a month during the holidays.

She adds new products to her store almost daily. It could be something as small as earrings, a new line of T-shirts or an order of scents.

Quam said there are times it can be difficult to get products because most of the businesses she works with operate on a small scale.

“They’re making it themselves,” she said. “They’re like a one-man show or a family business. So it’s a lot of our vendors aren’t, you know, sourcing overseas and just mass producing it.”

Quam said the relationship with the vendors also is critical.


Her cousin Ehu gifted the shop’s name Pilikana, meaning relationships. It fit. Quam said it’s important to her that the artists she works with have values that lie with family.

“We always want to make sure that they’re like-minded in the business sense to know that at the end of the day, family is first and it’s got to make sense for us,” Quam said. “It’s got to make sense for you.”

Quam works with at least 60 vendors, most from the Big Island but some from other parts of the state.

Kona-based Brittany Rocha, founder of HiSami Co., makes earrings out of polymer clay and creates a variety of designs related to Hawai‘i from the moon phases to plants to the ocean.

Her jewelry making was a side hustle and hobby until about two years ago when she talked to Quam about carrying her products.

“She was the first person who gave me my first break,” Rocha said. “As a Native Hawaiian, we don’t always feel heard or seen.”

Rocha said Quam is a treasure and considers her to be a mentor who always is encouraging her to keep creating and pursuing her passion.

“I feel grateful to Kila,” Rocha said. “I’m excited to see her boutique continue. It can only expand and get better.”

Lauhala weaver Meredith Buck first met Quam in 2018 when the shop owner reached out to her over Instagram.

Buck said she was accustomed to receiving cold requests from retailers.

“But Kila’s message stopped me in my tracks,” she said. “Instead of asking for wholesale pricing and quantities right off the bat, she approached me with a spirit of friendship and community, seeking to establish a relationship as people first.”

After messaging Quam and getting to know her by spending time in Pilikana, Buck said she felt in her na‘au (gut) that this was someone she could trust — and a place where she could confidently place her creations.

“By supporting the people who carry traditional knowledge passed on from the elders and ancestors, Pilikana helps to ensure that this knowledge makes it to the next generations,” Buck said.

Aside from stocking her shop with Hawaiian-created products, Quam also hosts monthly workshops to spread knowledge of Hawaiian arts, including lauhala bracelet weaving and how to string Ni‘ihau shell jewelry.

Quam survived the COVID-19 pandemic and statewide shutdown by pivoting her business to offer graduation lei. Now, her store is known as a place where you can find fresh, unique, beautiful lei for any occasion. Lei include pikake, pakalana, jade or lanterni lima. Every once in a while the shop will get fresh maile.

Quam purchases flowers from locals, including a 95-year-old man who sells her jade blossoms.

Selling lei, Quam said, makes the boutique a one-stop shop.

“Grab a gift, put it in a cute gift bag, grab a lei and a card and you’re on your way to the party kind of thing,” she said.

Quam said she also envisioned the business as a place to teach her keiki, ages 6, 10 and 18 the behind-the-scenes of finances, their roots and customer service. She hopes someday they will take it over and continue the mission.

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