Gift, craft shop opens near Hilo cruise port

HILO -- The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. opened a gift shop and Hawaiian craft center here, catering to cruise passengers.

The Mauna Loa Plantation Craft and Gift Center is "right outside the gates of the harbor," said Gary Carlson, vice president of retail operations for the nut corporation.

"There will be in excess of 100,000 cruise passengers coming through here next year, and we plan to capitalize on that," said Carlson.

According to Hilo harbor master Ian Birnie, 32 foreign ships will call at Hilo next year. In addition, American Hawaii Cruises' Independence currently calls once a week.

Late next year, that ship will have a sister calling at Hilo once a week also, the 1,214-passenger Patriot.

Just five years ago, Hilo had only 11 to 14 cruise ships calling each year, said Birnie. The gift center is an example of how the cruise industry is helping the Hawaiian economy, said Carlson.

"One of the strengths of Hawaii tourism has been an increase in cruise passengers," he said.

The gift shop sells Big Island-produced products such as macadamia nuts, chocolates, jams, jellies, cookies and wooden goods, said Carlson. The gift center also has installed a coffee roaster and is selling Big Island coffee.

The 4,000-square-foot craft center has 20 booths where local crafts people can display and sell their products.

Carlson said the gift shop and craft center is in the company's former office and repair shop.

"We opened the shop because we saw the increasing numbers of cruise passengers and the buying power they bring, and we were in the right location," said Carlson.

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