Making Holidays Magical In Hanapepe

Cynthia and Ed Justus pose with Santa in front of a tree decorated by Ele‘ele Elementary School students. Coco Zickos photo

Hanapepe Talk Story Bookstore owners spread holiday cheer at the Hanapepe Winter Festival

Every day is a holiday for Ed and Cynthia Justus.

The Hanapepe Talk Story Bookstore owners find enjoyment spreading Christmas cheer throughout the year, most recently at the Hanapepe Winter Festival.

“This event isn’t because of a love for Christmas for us,” says Cynthia. “For me, it’s about seeing people coming together, enjoying life together. That’s what any holiday is for.”

Two years ago, members of the Hanapepe community in an effort to bring back the Christmas festival that had ceased to exist several years ago approached the couple.

It used to be a rather big event, according to Ed, who with Cynthia has been operating the bookstore for seven years.

While coordinating and organizing the festivities, Ed asked the community to pitch in. Nonprofits such as West Kaua’i Business & Professionals Association and West Kaua’i Lions Club stepped up to donate their time and help provide various articles such as tents and lights.

Participants in the festival were able to make donations, as well, to the Lions in exchange for raffle tickets pulled at random throughout the night. Prizes from businesses such as The Right Slice and Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club were awarded to lucky winners.

A tree-lighting ceremony also was a highlight. Donated by Historic Hanapepe Town Association, the tree was decorated by children of Ele’ele Elementary School.

“It’s a fun, festive event,” says Ed.

Held in conjunction with Hanapepe’s Friday Art Night, food, music, shopping, art and entertainment were offered to visitors and residents alike.

Kaua’i’s biggest little town has held Friday Night Art from 6 to 9 p.m. each week for approximately 12 years. People are invited to appreciate the artwork Hanapepe businesses have to offer.

Some businesses, such as The Right Slice, which offers fresh Kaua’i pies made by owner Sandy Poehnelt, even got their start as vendors at Hanapepe Art Night.

“It gave them a place to be,” says Ed, regarding its location right outside Talk Story Bookstore.

Another entrepreneur, Waimea High School senior Chris Booth, also started his business outside the bookstore. After some encouragement from Cynthia, Booth created Inner City shoes and has since branched out to photography and music.

“Now when he plays music, his friends come to run the business for him, and they’re learning how to deal with customers,” says Cynthia.

High school students also attend the festival and have a safe place to hang out on Friday evenings.

“How cool is that?” asks Cynthia. “That’s why we do this.”

Supporting small businesses is essentially why Ed and Cynthia enjoy Hanapepe Friday Art Night so much.

“Everybody started someplace,” says Ed. “Give people an opportunity. Allow them the opportunity to succeed.”

“If you have a dream, let them follow it, ” says Cynthia, a self-proclaimed secret Santa. “My job is to help make people’s dreams come true.”

Her philosophy is that helping people is what money is for.

“That’s what this whole thing is for,” she says about the Hanapepe Winter Festival and Friday Art Night. “It’s not about the store itself. This is what helps us to provide for the community. This is the means to do that.”

Though they may pass the torch for organizing Hanapepe Winter Festival in the future, they hope to see it grow.