Besides all the other challenges with living in a pandemic era, most Hawaii residents have been hit harder than the rest of the country financially. Very little business is being done on our tourism-reliant islands. As we drive through the ghost towns of Lahaina and Paia with boarded up shops and open parking spaces, it’s hard to stay positive. But every once in awhile there’s a glimmer of hope. Someone somewhere is succeeding by being creative. Another person is starting a new business. And some existing business owners are putting all of their non-child-rearing hours into pivoting online or to different industries.
Our good friends at Soley Aloha are just such people, only they had to do far more than pivot when the Maui Tropical Plantation closed down.
Below are some questions we were dying to have answered by Billie and her beautiful little family:
1I first became aware of your skills and work ethic when seeing your incredible photography around the Maui Tropical Plantation and was thrilled when you opened a shop there. With the property’s massive renovations and slow growth, I was worried foot traffic wouldn’t be enough to sustain your shop (at least at first.) Since then, you not only had enough foot traffic, but locals and visitors made special trips to the plantation specifically to buy your clothing, jewelry, art, and more. It’s hard to find a car that’s not sporting your iconic minimalistic “ALOHA” sticker nowadays. Your success wasn’t a surprise, considering the quality of the work and the thoughtful style of your shop. But it must have come as a surprise and an extra blow when the Tropical Plantation shutdown. Were you expecting it, and how did you first handle the news?
Well, first off we are so grateful for our time at Maui Tropical Plantation. It was and will always be such a special part of the journey. We are both so thankful and humbled by the ongoing support from our loyal customer base near and far as the brand has expanded slowly but surely. The COVID hit was a hard one in March while we were gearing up for what we thought was going to be our best Spring/Summer yet. Obviously, life had other plans, and I think it was a huge blow to everyone island-wide. The reopening in June of the MTP property showed a lot of promise, so we set up, got up and running again, and were optimistic. The second more official shutdown in July was the hard one. The three years of growth and love in the heart of Waikapu valley came to an abrupt stop. We felt all the emotions as you can imagine. We had momentum going and we had to decide if we were ready to let go for a while or take this as an opportunity to take the business in a new direction. We chose to turn the negative into positive and looked for new opportunities. We were given a chance to see the light in the darkness and to move forward, giving our all which brings us here to today.
2I assume your focus went pretty quickly to growing your sales online (we’re revamping our Maui shopping page right now.) What steps have you made and what kind of results have you seen since making them?
First sign of the pandemic, and we didn’t hesitate for a second to switch our gears online. It was a project that for the first couple of years of our new business, and becoming parents, had been pushed to the back burner. In the Spring of 2019, we revamped the website so there was movement but the COVID pause gave us time to dial it in. One of the main pivots we did online was to upload all the products of our local vendors, as many of them did not have websites of their own and mostly relied on brick and mortar locations. Our vendors are like family to us, and we knew we needed to support them. Doubling down on social marketing as well as focusing on our newsletter that offers exclusive discounts are some other avenues we expanded on, which have shown promising results. Websites are no joke as you know well. They take time, effort, and require fast-evolving knowledge. We are lucky enough to have our employee Carole Berthiaume who is a webmaster and a shining light, Stu who is an amazing photographer with a technical vision, and myself who I like to think about as the glue that kinda holds all the walls in place and fills in all the gaps. It all added up and off we went.
3This is the question we are most interested in. With every town on Maui being mostly shut down, it’s rare to see any existing shops open again. Our friends, John and Anna, had to leave their Kai Pua Art Studio on Front Street (remember the one with the live glass blowing in the window and all the beautiful locally-made paintings and jewelry?) Well, they shared their story with me of how relentless Front Street landlords can be during the COVID crisis (maybe that will be our next interview?) Most people wouldn’t believe how much it costs to rent a small shop in Lahaina or Paia town. Another friend, Stan of Alice in Hulaland, reopened for a brief period only to close again, and today he officially opened up again. That’s why it came as a surprise to see you open up in the heart of Paia Town, a spot with commercial rents that rival prime Front Street Lahaina as well as Wailea and Kaanapali resorts. What made this possible? What plan have you laid out for POST-COVID Maui retail?
That’s a fun one to answer because I will remember the conversation for the rest of my life…Stu and I looked at each other, all the hard work and sacrifices, all the uncertainty in the world, and decided who better to believe in than ourselves. The intention behind this business is built off something we believe strongly in. It’s about Aloha being at the forefront of our lives. It’s about community, accountability for our actions, living and being present, taking care of the ‘āina and each other. We support over 20 local vendors and we felt strong enough in that decisive moment to believe a little harder and give it our all, not just for us but for the community. If you know us Soleys, our passion and love is a hard flame to put out and the world needs light, love, and aloha now more than ever so we decided to keep showing up. We were fortunate and fast-acting enough to receive some assistance from the SBA loan, so that definitely played a factor in it all. Moving forward is our hope for the future; One foot in front of the other.
4Once our island begins to see a degree of visitors that make tourism sustainable, it’s very possible we’ll see Maui become overcrowded again. This has sparked strong arguments on both sides. What are your thoughts on deliberately limiting vacation access to our islands?
We see this as a very unique opportunity for the island to rebuild itself in a more balanced and self-sustaining manner. We have all felt the repercussions of no tourists on island and the dramatic effects, but we have also all seen and experienced empty beaches with no trash, marine life coming back in a big way, and a sense of community including the importance of family time and shopping locally. We have hopes that we can find a better balance than what was there once before. The infrastructure couldn’t handle what was happening before so we need that to stay at the forefront of our minds as we move forward as an island.
5You’ve built a beautiful brand, and offer the highest quality products. This alone is a major accomplishment. Where do you see Soley Aloha in 10 years? 20 years?
Gosh, 7 months ago we had a vision of what the future looked like. It was expanding wholesale to neighbor islands. Expanding the brand into more of an affordable surf-based apparel line that had something to offer for every family member. As of lately though, we have re-focused on being and living in the present. It’s important for us to focus on how far we’ve come and how much gratitude we have to show up to our shop in this beautiful, wonderful Paia Town that we get to call home.
6Though you’ve definitely been busy moving your shop and working on drumming up online sales and exposure to the new location, it’s nice to hear you’ve found some time to enjoy our very quiet island. Personally, every second that isn’t going towards work or family is being used to explore empty beaches and great hikes. Does any spot or experience during your pandemic leisure time jump out as a favorite?
Big Beach all day. We named our baby girl Keegan Makena because who can resist any day at Makena? And now with no one in sight, it’s a truly special, magical day.
Thanks so much for the opportunity to share our little story built off hopes, dreams, and aloha.
You can visit Soley Aloha at 83A Hana Highway in Paia Town.
Tuesday-Saturday from 11am-5pm
15% Kama’āina All Day, Every Day!
You might also like our SIP ME interview.
Stu and Billie did a giveaway for those reading this article. They gave away 1 Hat, 1 bendi cup, 1 pair of Aloha socks, and 1 decal.
Who won? Will you do more giveaways?
The giveaway ended on October 5th with Faith Beatty’s name being pulled from a hat. If you’re interested in entering more giveaways, let us know in comments and share what your favorite thing about Maui is!
Love the article and reading about your resilience! Good Luck in the new shop!
Mahalo Jess! They’re an impressive family. I don’t doubt they’ll have success in this new location.
I have a goal to make Hawaii self-sustaining. This pandemic is a wake up call that all Hawaiians need to heed. We cannot allow our paradise be at the mercy of people who only see us as an exotic tourist destination. I will be with you guys soon. Ohana.
Aloha meaning friendly attitudes and spreading kindness !!
guys – we are trying to get back to maui asap. this year doesnt seem reasonable, so we are planning for next winter, far away as it seems. we will make it a promise to stop by the store when we do, we love paia! in the meantime, best wishes, stay positive (because what else is there, really?!) and we will see you soon!!
Mahalo for planning to support Soley Aloha! If you’re looking for Maui items, they sell online too. Good way to keep the aloha alive! We’ll see you next winter.
Maui is like my second home and my heart. My brother moved out there when I was 10 and have been going out there so much ever since. The feeling you get when you’re out there is so unexplainable. All the beautiful nature and spiritual and positive energy just give me this amazing feeling. I can’t wait until the day I go back. We got married out there a year ago because it’s me and my husbands favorite place in the world and we were gonna go last month for our one year anniversary and couldn’t :(. I definitely could use some aloha in my life. Mahalo!
Aloha means welcome and spirit. There is a natural and beautiful spirit of the land, the water and the people who make Maui so soulful. I so wish to visit again when this is all over!!
Me and my wife love the peace and the beauty that is Maui. It holds a special place in our hearts!
Same here! It’s a very special island with an incredible community!
I have always had a soft spot for Hawaii. My family and I had the pleasure of visiting Maui in February to go whale watching. What an incredible time to be there and we can’t wait to be back. 💕
We can’t wait to have you back! Been a crazy time, huh!?! February is prime whale season.
Aloha is the ‘gentle’ word to express calm, politeness, and peace. Each night after her prayers Cleo gently adds “aloha” to bring peace to the end of the day. The spirit of this word IS the word!
We were blessed to visit Maui for the first time in January 2020 to celebrate our children’s graduation. We fell in love with the island, the people, and Paia. I am excited to visit Soley Aloha online! Mahalo
Mahalo! Sounds like you visited just in time.
Best of luck in the new venture, the pics look amazing! Will make a stop when the group heads that way in a few months! 🤙
Maui is home; has and alway will. It’s the most peaceful and serene place in the world that’s incomparable ❤️
Aloha Aku No, Aloha Mai No
We were planning a trip to Maui on September 2. It was to be our first trip to Hawaii. We have been a sad that our trip was cancelled! I have wanted to visit for a long time. I’ll visit your online shop but hopefully I can come to your shop next year! Aloha is a beautiful word!
The most beautiful place on earth. I have two children .one daughter and one son they are half Hawaiian and half Italian. they both love the culture of Hawaii. I have gone to Maui many times and I have respected there inland. Again beautiful inland for sure
Love the new space! You guys have gracefully moved forward through these challenging times. Thanks for spreading the Aloha!
The feeling and spirit of Maui stayed with me long after we returned home from our visit in 2018. We loved the energy and peaceful vibes of the island and, of course, the amazing natural beauty and the friendliness and pride of the local people we met there.
We LOVE Maui and are so glad Stu & Billie Soley are successfully opening a store in Paia Town. Great place. Hope to visit in January and will for sure stop in! All the Aloha.
For the best Maui has to offer visit Solely Aloya!!
Love watching the Soleys journey through life! Even through hard times you manifest opportunities with your pure aloha spirit. Cant wait to see what’s to come!
I saw this article through a friend from church and wow what a small world. I’m from Oahu but now lives in VA. So grateful and thankful that your business is growing and cool design. I hope I win!
I got to visit Maui for the first time a couple years ago. We so enjoyed our time there. The food was amazing, the landscape was just gorgeous, but most of all the people were so welcoming and helpful in making our trip the best it could be. For example, I had booked my first surf lesson, a bucket list item of mine, and didn’t think about board shorts. The employee at the store let me take the shorts for my lesson and pay afterwards, as it was too late to return to grab my wallet before the lesson started. Everyone we met was friendly and kind. We hope to visit again soon!
What a great addition to this amazing little town! Love all of the unique shops! Can’t wait to come back and explore!
Visited Maui last year for the first time and excited to be back in November of this year ! We love Maui and can’t wait to soak up the beautiful sun and aloha.
I really miss Maui. It feels like my home away from home. The people are so friendly and the island so welcoming. I had a trip planned for April, that got moved to May and then to July and then to August and now, fingers crossed, is scheduled for Halloween. I always like discovering new shops and definitely plan to visit Soley Aloha when I finally to get back to Maui.
Wonderful, inspiring article – great insight on the move forward in difficult times. Mahalo for sharing your story – Soley Aloha. Couldn’t have picked a better NEW location than wonderful Paia.
We live in Southern California and have been coming to Maui for ten years. What Covid has done to our lovely home away from home has made us so sad…But I especially enjoyed reading his outlook on how we can balance tourism and the love for hte island a bit better. I do think Maui has been given an opportunity to pause and heal, which ultimately is the most important thing. I do love the message of resiliency and finding the silver lining. We will continue to supporting local Maui businesses until we can return safely 🙂
My husband and I went to Maui for the first time last October and had a blast. It was one of the most beautiful and calming places I’ve ever been. The weather is perfect too! We fell in love with Maui and want to come back next February if possible!
Love Maui. Lucky to see I in 2007. Now I am 83 and wish I could go back again before I pass away. Love, love, love Maui !!!
Thank you for your incredible Maui spirit and attitude. We have been lucky enough to visit Paia Town several times and just love it there. We can’t wait to get back, hopefully in the near future. Respecting the land and environment is crucial for sustaining Maui’s beauty.
I love Maui and it’s beautiful beaches and sunshine, especially during our Canadian winters. Congratulations on your opening Stu and Billie!
I first visited 3 islands (minus the Big Island) of Hawaii in 2011 with a tour group. Came back to do the Big Island and return to Oahu and Maui on my own with my husband. Did all of our planning of where to stay and where to go. We drove around much of the islands but let a tour company take us on the Road to Hana and to Mt. Haleakala. We wanted to be able to enjoy the sights. We planned to return back in June but you know how that story goes. If I could move to Hawaii I would. i left my heart there. We will be back soon.
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your visors. I bought 2 and I can’t wait to purchase a ton more!!!
Maui is the most welcoming place in the world to me.
Aloha is comfort. I met Stu at the plantation 2 or so years ago and we enjoyed a rainy evening. He showed me the shop and left a lasting impression. I have ordered online from their shop a few times since. The vibes are ohana. From alaska aloha!
Maui is where we got engaged!
I love Maui because Aloha is truly a lifestyle and a feeling like no where else in the world! Yay for Billie and Stu! You guys are killin it!
Maui to say the least is Amazing. It will always have such a special place in our hearts. One day we will move there! But seriously, the ocean has always called me to it and it wasn’t until I was in Maui with my husband that I didn’t know how much it was really an amazing place for me. There is really nothing like it. Nothing like the animals or the food or the amazing people that live there. I fell in love with the island the moment I stepped off that plane. We got to eat and see amazing places. Meet amazing people and even got to purchase “Maui Champagne” by Stu Soley. We got to bring a small piece of Maui, Aloha all that we love about it home. For that I am forever grateful.
I’m so happy you’ve reopened in a new spot. Loved your shop at the Tropical Plantation and wondered if (really hoped) you would open again. See you soon.
We were fortunate enough to visit your shop at the Maui Tropical Plantation and associate it with an amazing trip with friends. We have very special memories from Maui and appreciate the unique nature of your shop to help us keep those memories fresh! As I wrote this, I just happened to look up at my husband reading across the patio in his ALOHA shirt! Definitely a favorite! We’re excited to check out your online store!
We talked about picking up our gen contracting business and moving to Hawaii for 10 years. We’ve been here nearly 4 years. No regrets just hear5s filled with Aloha.
I love Maui because it is a place that shows its Aloha Spirit & its love for Ohana!!
To me aloha means seeing the good in all things. It is love and peace which we so desperately need in the world right now. Do all things with aloha and you can’t go wrong!
Maui is such a beautiful place. Life is simple yet so exhilarating with beautification. Aloha means so many things to me=Kindness, caring, giving,respect,wisdom and gratitude. It’s the attitude of gratitude! Aloha is not just hello or goodbye it’s a way of life. Do on to others as you would want done to you. Give Aloha and get Aloha.Do good and good will follow and new doors will open. You get the drift. So spread ALOHA it’s contagious. 🤙🏼
Maui is Aloha. Ohana is Aloha and Maui and Aloha is Ohana. After living on Maui for 15 years, my pregnant wife and I moved to the Mainland to be closer to family. Bad idea. It only took a few weeks to realize we had made a mistake but were stuck in a year lease. We decided to make the best of it, have a happy & safe birth and get back to Maui ASAP. What we missed most was ALOHA. It was a wave or a smile or even a glance of acknowledgement from a stranger. It was someone slowing down their car to wave you across. It was the energy that can be so powerful yet effortless when in tune. That is what we missed. That is why we moved back as soon as our lease was up with our beautiful, healthy, amazing daughter and that Aloha is why we are so grateful to be here on Maui during these rough times. Mahalo Maui for teaching Us about Aloha and Ohana and Mahalo for welcoming us back just in the nick of time.
Maui is a magical place in so many senses. It’s not just the beach and the ocean that call tourists to the island. All of the locals we met were so kind, caring, and just genuine people. There isn’t a single thing we don’t live about Maui. Prior to covid hitting we had our 3rd trip planned back there early 2021. Now I’m not sure when we will be back. In the meantime prayers for all the locals, their businesses, and the overall well being of the islands are being sent. ❤
Maui is heaven on earth! Aloha!
Loving Maui is so easy. My beautiful son, daughter-in-law and 3 granddaughters live in Lahaina, and I go any chance I get to spend precious time with them. I am so saddened about all the closings and hardships the people are experiencing, and so happy to hear some things are picking back up. Paia is always a must visit town, along with many others. Aloha is always in abundance on Maui. I am anxiously waiting to be able to get back there and feel the ocean breeze, see the beauty all around me and mostly the love! Aloha!
Maui is a beautiful and magical place. We love exploring on Maui. Aloha is the feeling we get in Hawaii and bring home with us and try to keep until we return. We look forward to coming back to Maui soon. We love all of the local shops and wish them well🤙
Happy for this positive sounding young family who have found a way to get their business up and running again. We had to cancel our usual Autumn Maui time but have re-booked for next October as we are thinking positive also. Words can’t explain how much we are going to miss our Maui time but I love the idea that possibly, there might be less crowding on the island in the future, to bring it back to a happy time when I live in Hawaii in the ’70’s.
Aloha to me is the spirit of togetherness and family. Especially in these times of hardship. Onward and upward. 🌺
I was born and raised here in Hawaii, born Big Island, raised on Maui. But I left for college and took 16 years before I returned back home to Maui. What I learned in those 16 years of adult life is that I took Maui for granted. I missed being surrounded by people who genuinely appreciated the simplicities of life. “No Aloha” was a term I used so frequently while in the mainland, that I did whatever I could to spread it. Everywhere I lived, they called me Aunty Aloha (and I’m young!) because they understood what aloha meant just by understanding my way of living. When I moved back home in 2015, it was such a wholesome feeling to no longer be that exception. Maui is so beautiful when you take the tine to appreciate it. This pandemic brought on a lot of hardships for many but it also brought us together too. It gave us a sense of gratitude many of us lost and if there was a ever a time to stop and enjoy Maui for its raw beauty… now is the time. Maui No Ka Oi
My husband and I went to Maui for the first time for our honeymoon in September 2019 and we can’t wait to get back! We visited Soley boutique when your daughter was in the store and she helped my husband pick out a hat! He wears it ALL the time! The logo is so creative and people comment on his hat often. Can’t wait to come back and visit the new location!
Soley Aloha was one of our must-stops on our first trip to Maui last November, and it didn’t disappoint! We absolutely love the clothes, the artisan jewelry, the art, and of course the aloha you feel from everyone working there. During our visit we also spent an afternoon in Paia, and we are so excited to check out the new spot on our next trip to our favorite place in the world! Until then, we’ll keep stocking up on some of our favorite gear and of course the signature aloha stickers from afar! A hui hou!
We visited you at the Plantation after feeding the Nene geese with our kids and zip lining. Bought my awesome
purple wine cup. We are so stoked to see you opening again!! Congrats! Your logo brings me joy, literally brings a smile to my face thinking about Maui and Aloha. Aloha to me means- sunshine, happiness and kindness.
I smile every time I hear “Aloha” because it’s just a warm, welcoming greeting. You really do feel like ohana even if you’re meeting for the first time. Never underestimate the power of one simple word.
There’s no other place like Maui. Keep sharing the love and aloha 💞
Nice looking storefront. I look forward to visiting my next trip on the island (which is scheduled for the latter part of the Humpback Whale season for 2020-2021).
We love you guys! What a great way to spread Aloha! Maui is our home, it’s where we raise our family, live our everyday, explore, love and share it with our kamaaina. We love Maui! Aloha means so much to us! It’s a part of who we are, spreading aloha, love, kindness, being a good human, raising our children to have Aloha in everything they do! And also teaching and showing aloha to our visitors that come to Maui so that they can all leave with Aloha in their hearts too!
Aloha is a spirit of happiness and tranquility. It’s a lifestyle.
Hawaii is where I consider my home. I was born on Oahu in 1981, and have desperately wished to move back my entire life. I was finally able to take my husband to Maui in 2019 to celebrate his 40th birthday, and he equally fell in love. Not a day goes by that we don’t talk about our dream to move there one day. We feel the spirit of Aloha in everything we do. We even had a special sign made for our lanai that says, “Aloha lives here.” We want everyone who comes in our home to feel welcome. While we can’t wait to come back and support the amazing businesses we love, we also want to protect the people and land there. We hope to see you all very soon!
Hopefully I can win this giveaway for me or Tiana. 💯🙏🏾👌🏾
Maui has become home and my heart has become so full with how I have gained a new family here.
Why do we love Maui?
Maui is full of FAMILY.
Family that is blood related and friends that become family. Like the Soley’s!
Maui has a magical way of growing our hearts and opening our minds.
The Soley’s say it well, ALOHA is not just a saying… It is a Lifestyle!
Without a question in our mind… Aloha means LOVE.
We try our best to react to anything in life with love and aloha.
Cheers to you and yours!
Noelani, Magnus, Larissa and Randol; The Stancil ‘Ohana
Aloha!! We miss you!! We come every year and just loved visiting your store at MillHouse. So happy to see your new location and we just cant wait to visit in 134 days! We live in Wisconsin – so far away from paradise but we do our best to try to live each and every day with ALOHA!! One of my favorite Aloha sayings would be:
May we Always Share:
Laughter in hard times
Strength in hard times
And Aloha at
May your day be filled with ALOHA!
See you in February!
We were last on Maui in October 2019, and I bought a Soley Aloha hat from the store at the Tropical Plantation. Anytime I wear it, I’m met with so much Aloha. It reminds me of a beautiful time spent in paradise. Thank you!
Love Maui because it was my home for 9 years and will always be. Aloha embraces so much more than one thinks, its a way of life and culture.
Someday we’ll look back and realize the importance of this break. How we thought about what really matters, reconnected with loved ones, bobbed and weaved, found a side gig, rediscovered our neighbors, shopped local and felt all of the emotions. I’m so optimistic for our future now. With aloha and grace, we move forward
Amazing job, keep up the great work! Its wonderful local businesses just like you that make Maui so special! Keep spreading the Aloha 🙂
Whales, whales and more whales. That is why I love Maui…