What started out as a farmers market in front of Huggo’s many years ago, is now a beautiful, serene and unique shopping experience. The All’i Gardens Marketplace is located a few miles south of downtown Kailua Kona on Ali’i Drive, the town’s main drag.
The Marketplace has seen a resurgence after the recession and currently has over 30 vendors.
Five things people will love about shopping at the Marketplace:
1. Easy, abundant and free parking-no stairs or steps.
2. You can bring your leashed dogs-it’s dog friendly.
3. Something for everyone-bring your list of family and friends to shop for.
4. Vendors offering many locally crafted and hand made items and food products.
5. Lots of shade-Mature monkeypod, orchid and kukui trees cover much of the shopping plaza.
Local business entrepreneur, Eric Van Platen Luder, who took over for his family as the owner of Huggos, On the Rocks and then opened Lava Lava Beach Club, is the co-owner of the Marketplace. He sat down with me recently to discuss the history of All’i Gardens Marketplace and shared with me some interesting facts. After four years of running the farmers market in front of Huggos, he decided 16 years ago to move the market to its current location. He was encouraged by many friends and business owners that if he was going to be successful in opening an open air marketplace that it HAD to be on Ali’i Drive. He agreed and found the spot for the marketplace and then hired a landscape architect to ensure that the space would include indigenous and endemic foliage, such as the now towering Monkeypod and Kukui trees.
Van Platen Luder and his partner created an open air experience which allows for tropical air to waft through, lots of tables and chairs to so you can enjoy lunch (TJ’s BBQ by the Beach should be a must-eat experience-fall off the bone ribs!) and helped to create a true community for the shop vendors, many of whom have been working alongside one another for 15 years, such as the Kona Natural Soap Company owner, Greg Colden and Jill Ernst from Jill’s Hot Stuff.
Colden, who runs his soap shop Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, is thankful for the flexibility of his vendor space. Greg, who makes his own handmade natural soap a few miles away at his farm and factory, runs tours at his farm and is busy in his factory on the days he is not at the Marketplace. Greg loves the dog-friendly culture of the marketplace and brings his own dog with him to work, who acts as Greg’s customer emisary. Greg loves dogs so much, he sells his “Soap Orphans” to the public and puts a percentage of the sales towards helping the Hawaii Island Humane Society, which has received thousands of dollars since Colden created the campaign last fall. Colden stated, “You can find something for everyone in everyone’s budget at the Marketplace,” as he showed me his $55 mango box sets with six bars of soap to his $4 Soap Orphans.
Ernst uses her vendor space to create colorfully beaded toe-thongs and hand painted custom coconuts that can be mailed from the island. She also has a pooch joining her in her booth and loves the company her furry friend provides during work hours.
Other vendor booths offer up beach chairs/surf boards/coolers for sale which can be recycled back when tourists are done using them, a mineral/rock shop with jewelry, a fresh produce vendor, handmade Koa and exotic hardwood items, including raw slabs, and more.
This is definitely a shopping space to mosey through for gift purchases. For us locals..a place to find mangos that the shop owner chooses just for you based on when we would be eating them, a BBQ restaurant to take home tasty ribs and natural soaps made from island ingredients.
The Ali’i Gardens Marketplace is open from 10-5 every day but Monday’s at 75-6129 Alii Dr.
As an aside: Eric Van Platen Luder mentioned that there are spaces now available for entrepreneurs who would like to rent space at the Marketplace.