COVID-19 re-sets kama’aina businessman’s priorities

Charles Gray’s store of luxurious bath and body products shut down in Kihei after nearly nine months of operation due to the downturn in tourism caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nalu Koa’s shutdown, the death of four relatives including one who succumbed to COVID in 2020, and the positive COVID testing of two older sisters all led to Gray’s decision to stay home and focus on life’s priorities.

“All of this stuff made business very small,” the 73-year-old Pukalani businessman said about Nalu Koa during a telephone interview. Gray and his wife, Stephanie, continue to produce soaps and sunscreen from a home-based laboratory in Upcountry Maui. Their only work is to fill online orders, and through the KamaainaFirst.com Website link.

When the Maui Swap Meet re-opened at the Maui Marketplace parking lot, and the Gateway parking lot canopies in Lahaina popped again on Sundays, Charles and Stephanie Gray waived off the opportunity to return to what once was a budding source of income. “We’re not going to come back until we get vaccinated,” he said.

Gray, who once played college football as a fullback at Oregon State University, said he’s enjoying canoe paddling and building up physical strength to get back into the water and maybe someday surf again.

“Although I miss my work,” Gray said, “I learned it really it wasn’t so important.” He expressed gratitude for a Small Business Administration loan that helped him pay rent for store space in Kihei. He was also thankful for the free exposure and marketing from the Kama’aina First program.

“We really want to do something to help people. But we want to do that when it’s safe again,” Gray added. For now, check out: https://www.kamaainafirst.com/product-for-kamaaina/nalu-koa-llc.