Taking on a life of its own
WAIMEA — While Historic Spencer House may be recognizable from the outside, it has a whole new look and feel on the inside. Once vacant, an inviting foyer now spills into retail spaces and a parlor filled with memorable cultural exhibits.
Sept. 2 marked the opening of Calabash Collectibles, a store on the first floor that sells treasured vintage, Hawaiiana and Asian items, art and jewelry, and Waimea’s new Welcome Center — an important stop for tourists and locals that the town has been missing.
Two residents helped bring the idea to fruition.
“My business partner, Rochelle Delacruz, and I started working on putting together a vintage, collectibles shop idea,” said Linda Fischer, co-owner of Calabash Collectibles. “We are both local girls. I grew up in Honokaa and Rochelle is originally from Hilo. Looking around for a spot that would suit the character of a business like this, we were drawn to Historic Spencer House.”
Completed in the late 1800s, the building has served many purposes for more than 160 years and was restored three years ago by several local volunteers, including Paul Johnston. One of their visions was to add a welcome center to the building. While some preliminary work was done on the project, it never fully materialized.
“Paul saw the possibility of us jump-starting this,” Fischer said. “His idea was that he could rent out space for our retail shop and we could man the Welcome Center during the hours that we were open.”
She and Delacruz set up the facility to do just that.
“It’s wonderful to see the Welcome Center open, at long last,” Johnston said. “A great deal of effort was spent in creating the written material, and with Linda and Rochelle’s new shop we see a synergy that can increase visitation to the house and potentially help their business as well.”
The shop encompasses three of the smaller rooms in the house that are filled with collectibles.
“We have eight consignees, seven ladies and one man. We also go to estate sales,” Fischer said.
In the parlor, Hawaiian quilts and pillow cases borrowed from talented, local quilter, Dorothy “Kuulei” Badua, are displayed. There is also a private collection of hula implements in honor of Aloha Festival, and an exhibit on Camp Tarawa, the training camp used by the 2nd Marine Division on the Big Island during World War II.
“The display will change each month,” Fischer said.
Although they’re still awaiting an official Welcome Center sign out front, a steady stream of tourists and locals have been drawn to Historic Spencer House since it opened two weeks ago.
“Everybody’s so excited about the doors being open,” Fischer said. “It’s such a beautiful building and I always thought it was heartbreaking that it was just kind of sitting here, but now people have access to it. One of our first local visitors made the comment ‘the house feels happy. I think it likes what you’re doing here.’ Without even going out and seeking people, they’re finding us.”
The Welcome Center area is stocked with a variety of handouts on Waimea attractions, along with menus from local restaurants.
Historic Spencer House will also host a different cultural presentation each month for the community and visitors, as well as other events.
“Upcountry Quilters have agreed to be the first to present and will talk about Hawaiian quilting on Oct. 1,” Delacruz said. “Waimea is very connected to the whole art of Hawaiian quilting and this is what they will talk about from 10 a.m.-11 a.m. and then do a hands-on demonstration.”
In November, they plan to feature the 442nd, in line with Veteran’s Day and Camp Tarawa.
“We’ve had residents who have lived here all their lives and said this is the first time they’ve been inside the house,” Delacruz said.
Fischer added, “This whole thing has taken a life of its own. It’s been a really exciting process.”
Calabash Collectibles and the Welcome Center are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Info: 895-0056