Fine Art, Jewelry In Hanalei

Anna Ulmer (pictured here with husband Chad)
Owner, Halelea Gallery

Please tell us about your business. Halelea Gallery in Hanalei is a fine art gallery that represents all local Hawaii artists specializing in original pieces. Our artists are primarily from the North Shore, so we have a lot of scenery from locations like Hanalei. We also are starting to incorporate more contemporary work like surf art and abstract pieces. We do have some local fine jewelers we work with, and we feature Black Pearl’s collection.

How did you start this business? My husband, Chad, and I had a mission to represent local artists by selling their unique, original pieces. We started our business in Hanapepe with fine art and jewelry, and then as more artists moved to the island, we found great designers and expanded our vision to encompass anything creative or wearable that fits within what we like. We created a boutique and moved to The Shops at Kukuiula. We later opened this second location that features only fine art and jewelry in Hanalei.

Why Hanalei? I think it’s the most beautiful place in the entire world. There was a need and it fit a niche. And even when we started in Hanapepe, I noticed all of our paintings were of the North Shore because many of our artists are plein air and paint on location. Hanalei was the perfect place for us.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? Our employees are amazing and are what make it possible for us. We have three in Hanalei and three in Poipu, and it’s because of them and our artists that this is able to happen. Everyone is motivated, excited to work, eager to learn new things and loves connecting with the customers. We’re always willing to go above and beyond, which makes me feel good.

Why did you decide to open this business? Art is such a big part of people’s lives for so many reasons. It’s something you can enjoy and indulge in. It’s also a reflection of your home that represents a good time in your life or something that really means a lot to you. We enjoy Chad Ulmer displays fine jewelry available for purchase at Halelea Gallery seeing people become so happy when they find something they identify with and love so much.

What is your background in art? I painted for a long time through high school and into college. I did a lot of abstract art, a lot of figurative drawings. I went to Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, but I ended up being drawn to fashion and merchandising and worked for places like the Today show doing wardrobe styling.

Why aren’t any of your paintings for sale? I am unable to have the business and paint. They use different parts of the brain, and I always joke with people who want me to paint that if I did, no one would show up to work. So I have to focus on the business side because it’s not in my nature to be crunching numbers and doing inventory. But, at the same time, it really excites me and I’ve learned so much.

How do you find your artists? It’s an aesthetic and emotional connection. We really have to connect with their art and know that we can represent them well — that’s so important to us. We really look at people’s portfolios and their originals. It’s very important to us to support the local art community because we want people to make a living doing what they love.

What is your secret to business success? Being incredibly hands-on and committed to your work. Also, finding a balance. We’re supportive of the people we work with, we treat our artists and employees well and we’re not about the bottom line. Of course, the financial aspects and rewards are important, but not the most important.

What makes you get up every day and go to work? The pleasure of working for myself and with others — just being in a beautiful environment surrounded by incredibly talented people.

What are some of your future aspirations? We have lots of them. One actually has to do with planning a recycling system for places on the South Shore like The Shops at Kukuiula, where our other store is located. I’m also excited to get involved with interior design because we’ve started doing commercial projects at Kukuiula as well as vacation rentals and private residences.

5-5016 Kuhio Hwy., Hanalei
Open Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.