News of Rafael opening in Chinatown flew around offices, with fashionable women giving a collective cry of, We can shop for hip clothes at lunch! These same women had mourned Rafael’s closure at Ala Moana Center. The store continued online, yet owner Mari Stewart missed the closer contact with her customers. “And I do love downtown. It’s a community, people walk around, the galleries talk us up and we can talk them up.” Stewart gets in the neighborhood swing on First Fridays, keeping the store open late. “We stay until the crowd dies down.”
Rafael carries lines from many of Hawai‘i’s young and up-and-coming designers, such as Noelani Designs, Fighting Eel and Melia Conrad. “On the Web, it’s really hard to promote names people don’t know,” says Stewart. “But I can put something by a newer designer in the window and people come in to ask about it. The store is a great showcase.” 22 South Pauahi St., 536-2823.
It takes guts to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore in the days of instant online gratification, but in da Shop, local publisher Bess Press has found a way to allow fickle/loyal readers to have their cake and eat it, too.