Molokai Furniture Celebrates 10 Years

For local business owner Denise Taueetia, growing up on Molokai meant always working hard. After 10 years of managing her own gift and furniture store, she’s taking a moment to celebrate.

“I still look at our pictures from our first anniversary,” said Taueetia. “In the beginning it was fun and it’s still fun today.”

Molokai Furniture got its start in 2003 after Taueetia had come back to the island after studying and working on Maui.

“[My husband and I] had gotten rid of all our furniture on Maui,” said Taueetia. “When I came here, I thought it was going to be easy to get furniture, but it wasn’t.”

After struggling to find furniture through garage sales and occasional, expensive trips off-island, Taueetia said she began to envision managing her own store. Soon after, she and her husband, Afa Taueetia, opened Molokai Furniture in Kualapu`u as the only on-island furniture store in its time, specializing in high-quality island style pieces.

Despite no prior business experience, Taueetia said business management became second nature to her and with the support of her customers, family, and landlords and friends, Carol and Jim Gartland, she’s developed a successful business model to emulate.

“If you can handle a year-and-a-half without spending your money and just saving it up, you can do it,” Taueetia advises anyone wishing to start a business. “If you can handle that, you can handle a business.”

Over the years, the business changed locations from what is now the Aka`ula School to its current location next door in the Kualapu`u Center. Jim said they constructed the building specifically for Taueetia because the previous building layout didn’t quite work for her business.

Today, Molokai Furniture carries more than 1,000 pieces from seven vendors throughout the U.S., offering wicker, rattan and wood furnishings as well as Polynesian gifts, jewelry, and clothing.

Though Taueetia is pleased with how far the store has come, she said her 10 years in business didn’t go without struggle.

“When times got hard and the business slowed down, we had to change everything we were doing,” she said.

Taueetia said she used to order full containers of furniture pre-built every three months. However, when they felt the hardship of the economy in 2010, they switched their ordering based on request and received the pieces disassembled to save money where they could. Today, they still follow the same model.

“Now, we are still not doing as well as we use to do but we are surviving. If things are slow, I just keep my faith and I go, ‘Hey Lord, you gonna bless us?’” she chuckled.

She said she’s also experienced competition from other furniture stores on the island.

“Denise was raised on the island and she’s got family and friends who really support her,” said Jim Gartland. “If Denise needs help with anything I try to be there to lend a hand and help wherever I can.”

Taueetia attributes much of her success to her loyal customers—many of whom she can recall by name.

“One of my customers who I had only met once before came in yesterday and…I said, ‘Hey Mr. White, how are you?’” said Taueetia. “He looked at me and said, ‘I’m just astonished you remember my last name.’”

Taueetia said she can even remember her first customers 10 years back.

“When I moved to Molokai, I had no furniture and I was glad they were here because I bought a couch and all the basics I needed,” said Maria Sullivan, one of Molokai Furniture’s first customers.

Sullivan said over the years, she has filled her home with furniture from the store.

“She has a good selection, the service is prompt, they deliver and it is just a great service for us,” she said. “I think it’s great [they are celebrating their 10th year anniversary] and I wish them a long and happy business.”

In the future, Taueetia said she plans to open another store to fill a demand she’s seeing on the island, however she wished not to disclose what the store will involve.

“There are too many copycats!” she said smiling.

She also hopes to someday hand her furniture store off to one of her children.

“I hope one of my children can do it because I was always a hard worker–growing up here on Molokai, you have to work hard no matter what,” said Taueetia. “I just hope down the road that my kids will be about to take over and get something going here.”

To celebrate this month, Molokai Furniture is having a sale of 10 to 50 percent off all items until the end of November. Additionally, they will be holding a celebration on Saturday, Nov. 23 in front of Aka`ula School with free hotdogs and BBQ “bring your own meat,” as well as live entertainment from King’s Chapel Church.


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