A Fond Farewell to Riches Kāhala, Closing After More Than 30 Years
The glass-walled boutique in the middle of Kāhala Mall was iconic for many East Oʻahu shoppers, largely because of the dynamic redhead who helmed it. Lo Kaimuloa talks about loss, love and her last hurrah.
Photo: Courtesy of Kāhala Mall
“I’m heartbroken,” says Lo Kaimuloa, her voice trembling. “There was one day I went to the mall and no one was there. I sat in the dark and started to sob. Looking around at all the stores, it hit me, it was an end of an era.”
She’s closing the modest 200-square-foot space this year, another small business crushed by the economic effects of COVID-19. The news stung our hearts. Kaimuloa, however, is pushing past the pain to focus on gratitude and appreciation, something she’s done since surviving a battle with breast cancer, and losing her mom this year. We have to be thankful for all the wonderful things and people in our lives she explains, “so when things go boom-boom-boom in a bad way, you can believe in blessings.”
Photo: Aaron Yoshino
Kaimuloa is a blessing herself for many. She opened Riches in 1986 and it quickly grew into a place that many called the heart of Kāhala Mall. It provided valuable opportunities for local designers dreaming of being discovered in a time when there was no social media, when it was people who spread the word. And, Kaimuloa’s voice carried weight. She expanded local shoppers’ fashion knowledge and their closets by being the first in the Islands to carry high-profile labels from New York, including Kate Spade, and Josie and Maria Barrera jewelry. Kaimuloa also ventured off to other cosmopolitan cities with her husband, to keep her finger on the pulse of style. “I traveled to places like New York and Dallas, found some really fabulous street artists. Some of their pieces ended up at Riches and some became big names.”
Bliss Lau sold handbags at Riches years before Beyoncé donned her jewelry in a music video. The Punahou alum says: “Auntie Lo, a savvy businesswoman, future forecaster, mother and friend to us all, has been an honor to work with. It’s no small feat to have survived as an independent woman business for decades. Her legacy will not be forgotten.” Popular bag designer Jana Lam adds: “She hosted my first trunk show. In essence, she launched my brand. Her amazing support for local designers helped us navigate the local landscape.”
Kaimuloa humbly says her years of success couldn’t have happened without her “girls.” “The women who worked for me were my family. My daughters. I’ve celebrated graduations, pregnancies and other big life moments with them. They ran the shop while I was battling breast cancer for two years. To have that type of love and commitment, that’s a miracle.”
Her faithful, and good fun, customers also became part of her ‘ohana. For her, and the Riches team, it wasn’t about closing a sale, it was about making people happy with a simple hello, being a therapist, finding that special piece that was perfect for them. “We were really close to a lot of the mallgoers; so close, they didn’t hesitate to ask, ‘Did you gain weight?’ I’m not kidding,” she says laughing. With that, she’s certain her friendships with them won’t change. Now, the conversations will include cocktails and fresh air. Even better.
After our laughter and some tears, we asked, what’s next? “I’ll continue to give back to the community in some shape or form. Maybe expand our online boutique. I’m going to let God do his magic,” she says. But that’s after the big farewell pā‘ina she’s planning. “I want to wear my Tahitian pearls, have a beautiful haku and say thank you to my customers, clients and those who have been on this journey with me.”
We wouldn’t miss it. Until then, we’ll say mahalo Auntie Lo, you’ll always be an inspiration to us. A dear friend, fashion guru and an upstanding figure, you brought riches to our lives—in more ways than one.