HONOLULU (KHON) – The Maui fire disaster is having impacts across the entire island, even portions not touched by the flames. But some local business owners said they are afraid of an economic downfall without the support from visitors.
Lahaina and West Maui are still off limits to the public — a message that officials and residents are making loud and clear — but the rest of the Maui community still needs to sustain itself, residents say.
Lahaina resident and musician Akoni Palomino lost his home and his main source of income.
“Please respect the West Side, let our families have time to grieve and take care of all these things that we need to for now on the West side, but definitely support all those businesses on the other side,” Palomino said.
“I’m a musician and I play seven days a week here on Maui all in the West Side, so as of right now all of our gigs are completely shut down,” Palomino continued.
It’s a tricky issue. Maui residents have previously expressed their concerns about the island’s dependency on tourism, while understanding that industry continues to be the main economic driver.
Following the wildfires, Gov. Josh Green, too, noted that the state remains open for tourism.
“What we’re saying now is travel should not be to West Maui but the other parts of Maui are safe and the rest of the state of course is also safe,” Green said.
Kyle Kawakami, the chef and owner of Maui Fresh Streatery, has given hundreds of plate lunches out to those affected. He’s one of several small business operators who found a way to help, and also support employees, by participating in a “Pay it Forward” initiative which allows people from around the world to buy meals Maui’s wildfire survivors.
“Small businesses like us that want to give back to the community and be active, for us to do that we need to be able to stay busy,” Kawakami said. “We’re able to feed those that were impacted and it also helps to stimulate our local small business economy.”
These are small business owners and workers who will need support for foreseen future.