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Maui Jim strategizes for another year

LAHAINA — From their birthplace in Maui, Maui Jim has expanded worldwide but the popular sunglasses brand still likes to return to their roots once a year.

The company brought employees to Lahaina this week to participate in the international sales meeting, an annual event that endeavors to inspire staff.

“We started with kiosks on Maui and have grown internationally,” said Diego de Castro, who works with Maui Jim’s brand strategy.

That all started in 1980, when owner and fisherman Jim Richards began selling sunglasses on the Maui beaches. Among the many styles of sunglasses, Maui Jim focused on polarized lenses and eye protection for the people out on the water in Hawaii.

Now, it’s an international brand. According to owler.com, it has estimated annual revenue of $54 million and employs about 450 people. Most of its glasses are in the $200 to $300 range, but some cost more than $400.

The event brought Maui Jim employees from around the world to Lahaina for a week, and Wednesday night was the main event — a dinner featuring chefs, speeches from CEO Walter Hester and an acknowledgment from Maui Mayor Michael Victorino.

That night, Maui Jim also announced donations and support to several Maui organizations and nonprofits.

Diego said that’s part of the meeting — taking the opportunity to schedule just before the holidays and to help the local community during the holiday season as well. They partner with organizations like the Maui Lions Club.

“Now’s the time when we get to show everyone what we’ve been up to,” de Castro said.

The meeting brought attendees to the headquarters and flagship store of Maui Jim, an unassuming building in Lahaina that is gearing up for — and in desperate need of — renovations.

For an international company, Maui Jim headquarters doesn’t have a lot of space. Two or three people handle each department and the office provides and ohana-type vibe, especially for such a big company.

Hester still has an office on the second floor of the location, chock full of memorabilia, including framed newspaper articles that tell the story of the company. Maui Jim also has a boat, where they take key customers fishing or out to see the wonders Maui has to offer from the sea.

They even still have original cubbies for the repairs and supply department that Hester built himself when they started, but employees said they’re looking forward to a refresh.

“We’re excited for the renovations,” said Maui Jim employee Brooke Guth, showing off the plans for the new updates to the store. “Back in the day, this was impressive, but we’ve grown so much since then.”

Alongside the company’s growth is a firm commitment to empowering employees to do what they can to make customers happy. The return on that is a happy work environment and a pleasant customer experience.

De Castro, who works at one of the headquarters in Chicago, said he looks forward to the annual event to connect with the Maui headquarters and talk story with people he hasn’t see in awhile.

The gathering centered around the Hyatt Regency in Lahaina, where Maui Jim still has a solid presence. They have a kiosk by the pool — still sticking to those local roots — where they employ local people to sell the sunglasses the way they started, one at a time and on the beaches of Hawaii.
Source: The Garden Island

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