Waimea's sugar shacks


Kikiaola's roots date back to the now-defunct Waimea Sugar Mill Co. At the turn of the century, Waimea Sugar was publicly owned and traded company, and Faye's grandfather, farmer H.P. Faye, began to purchase shares in it. By 1905, H.P. was the largest stockholder. By 1915, he owned the entire operation.

In 1950, the enterprise was reorganized into the Kikiaola Land Co., a property and land management division, and Waimea Sugar Mill Inc., which continued to raise and process cane. But, by 1959, with returns on sugar diminishing, the Faye family kept title to the land and sold the sugar mill to Kekaha Sugar Co. It was then that Mike's father, Alan, a manager at Waimea Sugar, first broached the subject of developing a visitor related facility on the family's 25.4 acres of land. But his brothers nixed the idea, since in the European style of doing business, the oldest son made all the big decisions, and Alan was fourth in line.

Then, in June 1982, one of the cottages was opened up as a vacation rental, and the profits from that unit were enough to convince the Faye's that a plantation-type resort could indeed be a successful venture. In November of that same year, a master plan for Waimea Plantation Cottages was commissioned from Bob Fox of Fox Hawaii and approved by Kikiaola's board of directors. The plan was to gradually convert the homes into vacation rentals as the tenants, who were mostly former plantation workers or relatives of workers vacated the structures. But two weeks after the plan was approved, Iwa struck. After assessing the damage, Faye called a meeting of his family and suggested that the restoration process begin immediately. With $230,000 in insurance payments and an additional $160,000 loan from Honolulu Mortgage Co. Inc.  Faye offered to find new homes for all the diosplaced families. Another eight families were later offered and accepted relocations options, as part of the ongoing programs to secure more units.

Renovating the ruins of the cottages proved to be more expensive than totally rebuilding, but Faye was intent on keeping the basic structures intact. "You can go into every house and there will be some little notch of something extra we built from scratch, we would really lose the personality of each home," says faye. "Each house brings its own story with it. Somebody will write stories about my grandfather, or the Robinsons, or Wilcoxes. But who's going to write about the people who lived in these houses, like Alfredo Baptista, Caalina Unciano, or Masahito coming to work with rice all in his stubble ?"

In order to be more cost-efficient, all of the renovation work was done by Faye and some local carpenters. But that decision also proved to be problem -plagued. Questions of bonding, insurance payments for work done-in-house, and loan responsibilities all had to be handled through unique channels. The banks usually deal with three-way relationships, involving the bank, contractor and owner," says Faye. "In those cases, if the owner doesn't pay, the bank can go after the contractor. In our case, it was just between the bank and us." Eventually, the equity in the land convinced the lender that the risk was worth it, Faye adds.

But the biggest setback involved securing various approvals and permits from the county. Located along the southwest coast of Kauai, Waimea is about as rural and untouched by development as any area on the island. When word got out that Kikiaola wanted to convert some of its cottages into vacation rentals, the company was slapped with a petition signed by 100 residents who were opposed to the project.

Faye got his loan approval and began work on the damaged cottages in April 1983, with completion at the end of 1984.

Today, historic touches can be seen throughout the vacation complex, including the swimming pool with a design reminiscent of the 1920s. An open courtyard faces a 17-mile stretch of beach. The cottages have been renovated to depict bona fide replicas of plantation-style homes, right down to the duplication of the colors of paint.

The board of directors comprises six Faye cousins, and is constantly approving new plans for Waimea Plantation Cottages. Much of the planning is spearheaded by Blouin, who wants to implement a marketing program for the cottages that would attract future business, as well as educate people on the historical value of the area and operation. Other plans may include a restaurant, a tennis court facility and eventually more units. "Despite this growth, I think we will still be considered a vacation hideaway," says Faye.

Ref. . Hawaii Business. July 1988 pg. 49-52. by Melissa Chang