Hawaii airport lei stands blooming after year of sales drought from coronavirus

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — When tourism shut down in 2020, so did many lei stands at the airport.

Shop owners say they are seeing signs of recovery, however.

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Lei stands are in the middle of a busy season, some are even having trouble keeping up with the demand.

Milan Chun’s hands never stopped working, she tried to restock the lei on display but they sold out faster than she could make them.

Chun said, “I’m slow, that’s the thing that’s why I have to hurry up.”

Generations have been buying lei from the airport stands for decades. More familiar faces are also returning to Gladys’ Lei stand. Bonnie Groendyke says their shop is back to selling at pre-pandemic levels.

“We were all tied up in the house, can’t do nothing,” Groendyke said. “But now that tiers are opening and people are coming, we’re able to have graduations, weddings, funerals now it’s starting to open up.”

Opening up means more people flying in. Taz Vegas is shopping for a couple of leis to follow the tradition of welcoming guests.

Vegas said, “In Hawaii when we pick up our friend first time to Hawaii I like to come here and get a lei.”

There are still traces of the pandemic, however. Not all shop owners have reopened, and those who have are facing a flower shortage. Shop owners say some flower suppliers are struggling to bounce back from a year of loss.

“Asked three of them and they didn’t have this particular flower,” Vegas said. “This is called the Puakenikeni, it’s my very favorite flower lei. Smells amazing and they were the only one that had it.”

Lei Day, Mother’s Day and graduations have helped lei shops bring some revenue, but they know it is only seasonal. Chun said the effects of the pandemic will be felt for time to come.

Chun said, “It’s sad… our situation now, but I hope that it will be better.” 

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