The Space To Be
Ariana Owen, along with a group of fellow visionaries, dreamed of rejuvenating a rundown structure on Kauai and transforming it into a community gathering place. When she came across a building that desperately needed some tender loving care on Koloa Road in Lawai, she felt she had struck gold.
The steel frame of the former Kauai Aluminum and Glass building was still solid when she and husband Ty purchased the dilapidated building about two years ago — the rest of the structure was another story.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be the easiest project,” she says, her optimism shining through her smile.
Now called Warehouse 3540, the building is a far cry from what it used to be, especially each Friday when it comes alive with vendors selling homemade products and local food. The Friday Market, held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., offers everything from jams and honey to soaps and clothing.
“It’s not this competitive sell, sell, sell, meet-your-quota kind of place,” says sister-in-law Rebecca Owen, who has a store in the warehouse called Ivy & Co. (named after her daughter) that offers unique arts and crafts. “We all like being together and we look forward to seeing each other each week.”
In addition to food, including meat and eggs for at-home meals, people can dine in Warehouse 3540’s hip, rustic interior Fridays and enjoy fresh fare from several food trucks, including Scorpacciata or Kickshaws.
“It’s a platform for people starting new businesses or food trucks,” says Leah Brown. “Everybody is so quality and so amazing, and we’re so proud of them.”
Brown is part of the team that continues to make the dream come true to develop a place where people can come together on a regular basis.
“I love the warehouse,” she says. “I see so much potential in what it can be and even what it is now.”
Another activity hosted at Warehouse 3540 is “2nd Saturday.” On the second Saturday of each month from 5 to 9 p.m., a beer garden is set up to serve local brews. Food, music and games also are part of the evening’s fun, family-friendly atmosphere.
Keiki, in fact, are always welcome, including at 9:15 Tuesday mornings when Warehouse 3540 presents “Kids’ Story Time.”
There’s also a regular “Ladies Art Night,” where women can get together, nibble on tasty pupu and get creative.
“It’s such an interesting group of people of all sorts who have come together here, and it’s like a family,” says Ariana Owen, who owns the store Cru (named after one of her sons) in the warehouse, where she sells items such as children’s books and art.
The dream team’s long-term goal is to include even more businesses and turn Warehouse 3540 into a permanent one-stop shop.
“We felt like we can offer a really unique, neat space that doesn’t have the super-high overhead that tanks a lot of businesses that are starting off,” says Ariana Owen.
More important, however, is to continue supporting that gathering space.
“People are looking for belonging and a place to belong, and it is a safe place for them to come, whether it be just to grab coffee and have a seat, or to shop or to sell,” says Rebecca Owen.
Ariana Owen agrees. “People really seem to like to hang out together. It’s a fun place to pop in and know that you can come alone or with people and not feel uncomfortable.”
Even though there have been times when they’ve wanted to quit and give up because of the hard work, they all believe that the French market-inspired facility will flourish no matter what setbacks occur along the way.
“Even in the really hard days that are really slow, you believe in something so much that it’s OK, it doesn’t matter, we know it’s going to be amazing,” says Ariana Owen. “Not one of us claims to know what we’re doing — we’re all learning together.
“The thread through the whole thing is the community. It’s investing in people, and the people, I think, really enjoy it, and I know that’s worthwhile.”
Visit Warehouse 3540’s Face-book page at facebook.com/warehouse3540 to learn about its hours of operation and any upcoming events. The warehouse is located at 3540 Koloa Road in Lawai.