Ohana Marketplace


Shaylee Oshiro

One of the most famous quotes from an animated movie, and specifically one based in Hawaii, is, “Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind.” It is one that highlights the importance of family and the connections between people. Ohana Marketplace, though a large standout-ish building on Ward Avenue, is definitely not a widely known spot, in fact, out of the nine people I asked, only one knew of the place. Unfortunately, it’s not something that’s going to be around for much longer either way, as it will be closing on March 31, 2022. No specific location has been released yet, other than somewhere in Kakaako.

The Ohana Marketplace is filled with small businesses. I myself enjoy strolling through the aisles and past the vendors to check out the variety of goods on sale. But still,  I’m not going to claim that I’ve been going there all my life or that I know everyone there like family, because truthfully, I don’t. The first time I visited the Ohana Marketplace was on a late afternoon after school. I was curious because my aunty heard it was closing. My only regret? Not visiting sooner. The place is filled with cubicle-like setups where people run their own businesses. And even from a new, young and fairly naive perspective, one can tell that the vendors have worked unbelievably hard to get where they are. I’ve been there a few times since then, and each time I appreciate the owners more than the last. It’s hard to run small businesses, especially in Hawaii where the economy can get a little haywire.

“I believe that supporting small businesses is important because it helps boost the local economy, creates job opportunities, and supports your local community. You also get a different kind of care and quality because these businesses are run independently, not by stockholders or purely algorithms,” said senior Paige Villaruz. “It’s hard to keep small businesses running because ultimately they aren’t big companies, therefore we’re helping these owners greatly by supporting them.”

Vendors have collectables, clothing, jewelry, food spots including both deserts and main courses. During the last couple times I stopped in, the Ohana Marketplace was hosting live performances that went beyond the usual relegated-to-background-noise level of audience engagement. The performers would talk to the audience, and even sang happy birthday to someone’s aunty who was sitting in the crowd, regardless of her insistence that her birthday wasnt for a while longer. It’s that unforgettable sense of community and familiarity that I’ll never really get over.    Even if not now or anytime soon, I definitely recommend checking out this place, especially because of all the people that will benefit from one’s support. While the Ohana Marketplace won’t be open in its current location much longer, it harbors consistent support through the local community continuously. If anything, you’ll find me taking a trip down to town when I have the chance.