MAUI(KHON2) — The wildfire devastated Lahaina, wiping out hundreds of businesses in just a matter of hours, crippling Maui’s economic engine.
More than four weeks later, businesses on Maui, many of them miles from the burn zone, are struggling.
“It’s affecting everybody here, it’s touched everybody,” Ken Frisbei explained.
Frisbei is the manager of Maui Brewing Company in the Kahana Gateway Shopping Center. He said they’ve had to cut their hours and lay off most of their staff.
“Usually, we run a floor of three to four to servers and two bartenders. And right now, it’s one bartender and one server who’s actually running the food out of the kitchen too.So that tells you we really cut back,” Frisbei said. “And if we don’t get more people, we’re gonna have to do more cutbacks, which means I’ll probably be laid off for a little while. And probably more kitchen staff. So please come in.”
He said they locals do come in, but it’s not enough.
“We’re a tourism based industry, so that’s what we need.”
Jasmine Witt, is the owner of At Witt’s End, a small boutique shop in Kahana.
“It kind of reminds us of COVID, which we just kind of barely worked ourselves through,” Witt explained. “And now this happened, you know. You just feel a little bit like it’s just stacking on top of each other, which is very heavy.”
Part of the weight she feels caused by the loss of her other boutique that was located right on Front Street in Lahaian. Everything there is completely gone
She just recently started opening her shop in Kahana a few hours a day to feel it out. While business is very slow, she’s trying to stay positive.
“We just have to do our best to go day by day and see what’s going to happen,” Witt said.
Governor Josh Green recently announced West Maui is reopening to tourism on October 8th. There’s been mixed feelings about it. Some aren’t quite ready to welcome tourists back to the area.
For those like Witt who have been personal impacted they understand both sides: the need to reopen as well as the need to take things slowly.
But she said she doesn’t know what to do if things don’t pick up.
“Unless somebody’s gonna pay all these bills that are going to add up,” she explained. “We need the economy to be stimulated again with the visitors.”