Founded in 1983 by Ed Thielk, with help from partners Sunette Fenn, Theresa Thielk and Chris Ozee, the store intentionally worked to earn a reputation for supporting Hawaiian businesses. Today, Mana is also known for supporting its employees.
Natural Foods Merchandiser: How have you been able to stock so many local products?
Marie DeJournette: We make it very easy for local vendors to sell to us by not putting them through a lot of rigamarole or paperwork. We like to see a wholesale price list, and then we sample the product. If the employees like it, we bring it in—even right on the spot. For example, one of our local vendors who makes hot sauce came in with a new granola snack. My buyers weren’t here and we didn’t have free shelf space, so I told him to set up on our demo bar. I entered the product into the system, and he ended up selling out.
NFM: What do you look for in a new product?
MD: Clean ingredients. We have a woman who makes Indian spice mixes, and her husband makes a hot sauce with ingredients from his garden. Sourcing is also very important. We carry several local chocolates made from cacao beans grown in Hawaii. They’re processed completely here. In the produce section, we buy from local, organic vendors. Last year, we bought a bunch of beets from a sixth grade class. Roughly 50 percent of our produce comes from local farms, and 80 percent to 90 percent is organic.
NFM: You also do a lot for the Breast Cancer Fund. How does that align with your work at Mana?
MD: Natural foods and nutrition are a natural extension of my breast cancer work. The Breast Cancer Fund focuses primarily on prevention through the elimination of environmental causes of the disease. The organization has a huge campaign to eliminate BPA from food packaging, baby toys and baby foods. I do all of my shopping at Mana because we also focus on these issues, and I believe in the quality of products we stock.
NFM: How do you support the fund?
MD: I climb for the cause. I started off climbing Mount Shasta, a 14,000-foot peak in northern California. Each climber commits to raising at least $5,000 for the Breast Cancer Fund. You pay your own expenses, and all donations go directly to the cause.
In July, I’m going to Ladakh, a remote autonomous region near Pakistan. I think I’ll be on part of the old silk route on the Tibetan plateau. Counting this year’s donations, I’ve raised close to $60,000 in the six years I’ve been climbing. Mana and the partners have been very supportive. They give me gift cards to auction, grant me enough time off for my trips and let me discuss my projects with the business contacts I meet through the store. I couldn’t ask for more.
Size: 6,600 square feet
Open since: 1983
49 Baldwin Ave.
Paia, HI 96779