Buy local! Hawaii-based shops take advantage of marathon shopping weekend

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The country's marathon Thanksgiving weekend shopping spree continues tomorrow with Small Business Saturday, and while brand-name stores and big-box chains tend to dominate Black Friday, many small local vendors are hoping to take advantage of the excitement.

"This is from the Big Island," said Kai Cowell.

For the owner of Kaiulani Spices, the Thanksgiving weekend is something she's been looking forward to for some time. Not only is it a chance to drum up new business, but it's also an opportunity to share her favorite recipes.

"This is our curry rice that we make," Cowell said. "My mom always cooked everything from scratch, and I still do."

Cowell is one of more than 400 local merchants from across the state participating in the 31st Annual Island Wide Christmas Crafts and Food Expo. More than 20,000 shoppers are expected to attend the three-day event, which is held at the Neil S. Blaisdell Center's exhibition hall.

"This is the place where I think people can get that really special gift," said Esme Infante, the expo's promotions director. "Sometimes it's recipes handed down through generations. Sometimes it's a feather lei that they learned the skill from their kapuna."

Over at Pearlridge Shopping Center, some Black Friday shoppers say they avoided big box stores and instead opted for something unique.

"There's nothing like getting a gift that's home-made by local people," said Letrice Kamealoha.

Homegrown, a retailer that aggregates and sells locally-made products, launched earlier this year and quickly expanded.

"We started with 35 'Made in Hawaii' brands. We're over 100 now," said Kuulei Vedder, the store's owner. "You can find things in the store that you can't find anywhere else. Some of our vendors, this is their only retail footprint."

No matter where you shop this holiday season, small business owners hope you'll take the time visit and make the community stronger.

"It's so important that we buy local, because the money stays in Hawaii," said Cowell.

Vendors at the Islandwide Christmas Craft and Food Expo will be at the Blaisdell through Sunday.

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