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View Full Version : Photos/recap of my KoAloha factory tour from 4/8/10



wickedwahine11
04-18-2010, 09:47 AM
I just got back from Hawaii last night (whew, a bumpy plane ride!) I had a great time in Oahu and Kauai, and the highlight of my trip was getting to spend some time at the KoAloha Ukulele Factory. I got a chance to talk story with Alvin "Papa KoAloha" Okami for almost an hour, and he performed some songs off his new CD ("Just Uke and Me") for us. He also explained the meaning behind the song "Softly," and while I loved it before, it has even more meaning now. Before we left, he grabbed some DVDs of the KoAloha Story, as well as two of his CDs (which he autographed) for us. I can't say enough about what a wonderful man he is. Not only is he a creative genuis -- who else could have thought up the wonders of the Pineapple Sunday, Sceptre and Jukulele, but he is also a warm and caring person, who took time out of his busy day to chat with two ladies from California. Poor Mom, she has now been dragged to the ukulele factory tours of Kanile'a, Kamaka and KoAloha. For her sake, I better not end up buying a Ko'olau.

To get to Kohou street from Waikiki, we took the #42 bus, and then walked a couple of blocks. I've now taken the bus to all three of the factories, and while Kamaka's is the easiest to get to, KoAloha's was simpler than Kanile'a (of course, if I had gotten off at the right bus stop for Kanile'a maybe it wouldn't have been so bad).

Here is a photo of me outside the KoAloha logo sign...
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12023

After posing under the sign, I took another picture standing outside their door. Unlike Kamaka, which is a pretty nondescript building, the KoAloha factory has adorable ukuleles and a sign outside letting you know that you are in ukulele heaven.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12028

After posing for my photos (with Po'okela, my trusty KoAloha Pineapple Sunday), we rang the buzzer and waited to be let inside. We had made reservations with Brian for the tour that morning at 9am, and I was excited to get to make the keychains I had heard so much about...

Turns out we didn't get to do that, but we were privy to something far greater - a personal concert from Papa KoAloha. I also got a chance to see the very first KoAloha, the miniature that Mr. Okami created on advice from Ohta-san.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12020

I also noticed how adorable the waiting room at KoAloha is...with everything from glass etched KoAloha designs to painted portraits of Alvin and Pat, aka Papa and Mama KoAloha.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12027

More below...

wickedwahine11
04-18-2010, 09:50 AM
I'd also love to have a plant like this, with KoAloha ukuleles growing on it...
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12018

After our concert, Brian took us on a tour of the factory, and we got a chance to see him discuss bookmatching of tops with Paul, using some beautiful koa wood for demonstration.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12029

We were also shown the unique brace used by KoAloha, which not only supports the weight of their workers, but also ensures the quality and volume of sound in the instrument.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12024
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12030

More to follow...

wickedwahine11
04-18-2010, 09:51 AM
We also got to see some of the new Masterpiece collection tenor Sceptres that Papa was currently working on...oh, to have a tenor Sceptre. He said that all of them were already spoken for, and that he anticipated being done working on them in about a week, then it would be on to make more jukuleles.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12017

I also got a chance to see the new bridge design for the Pineapple Sunday. As it has been reported elsewhere, KoAloha decided to return to the debossed style of design, rather than the etched tops. And this new spiky bridge design is also an improvement over the straight bridge style. As most of you know, I went through four of the Pineapple Sundays before I ended up with my current one -- I was searching for a spiky bridge design on an embossed top, and I ended up losing hundreds of dollars in the pursuit. I hate to admit it, but I really prefer the spiky bridge design to the one on my model, but at this point, I think I would end up divorced against my will if I bought another Pineapple Sunday so I'll just have to be content with the one I have. Luckily for me, it sounds and looks great. So even though I will lust after the new style, I'll stick with the one I have. For now, hehehe...
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12019

Finally, when we went back into the showroom, Brian brought out a Jukulele to show everyone, as it is the latest of Papa KoAloha's Masterpiece Collection. It is amazing the level of detail in these ukuleles. The "American" version actually has 50 stars etched into the top, one for each state of the union. And the "Hawaiian" model is stunning visually as well.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12026

I thanked Paul for helping to set up the tour for us, and I thanked him for all of his help and kind words on email. I also told him I appreciated him being on Ukulele Underground, as an inside connection to KoAloha for those of us who are big fans. I asked if I could pose for a picture with him and my ukulele, and unfortunately, Mom cut off the ukulele, but this is the two of us at the end of the tour.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12022

One last photo...

wickedwahine11
04-18-2010, 09:52 AM
And finally, my favorite photo from the day. This is of Mom, Alvin Okami, my Pineapple Sunday and I in front of a wall of beautiful KoAloha ukuleles. I can't thank the folks at KoAloha enough for taking the time out of their busy schedules to walk us through their factory and talk story with us. My Pineapple Sunday is a treasure to me, in large part due to the heart and soul of the Okami family. Mahalo nui loa to everyone at KoAloha Ukulele, especially Alvin Okami.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12021

You can see photos from my prior tours of Kamaka (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=23322) and Kanile'a (http://ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=23333) as well.

Huckleberry
04-18-2010, 09:56 AM
Enjoyed the tour. Now I know where my KoAloha Tenor was born.

Thx

Dane
04-18-2010, 10:42 AM
Annnd you brought everyone back a free ko-aloha right?

; ) cool tour, thanks for posting the pics!

pithaya9
04-18-2010, 11:44 AM
Thanks for the pics Staci, looks like a great time by all.

Jack

ceviche
04-18-2010, 12:00 PM
Definitely da kine tour! The love and pride the Okami clan has for KoAloha is really apparent. It's really funny and sweet in the way it's so obvious. There's no disagreeing with Paul that my KoAloha is special. When that much love goes into the making of an instrument--and even all of their instruments--it shows. No wonder KoAloha turned into such a rising star in no-time-flat.

--Dave E.

Ronnie Aloha
04-18-2010, 12:15 PM
Oh, you took awhile to come to the KoAloha side but you have indulged heavily in the Kool-Aid now, haven't you? : )

The KoAloha instruments are top notch but they become unbeatable once you meet the KoAloha gang. Your KoAloha uke becomes much more special once you meet everyone there.

Also, thanks for the great photos. I really found the Sceptre photo interesting since I haven't seen one in the assembly stage. I can't believe they are all pre-sold! It makes me appreciate mine even more!

RyanMFT
04-18-2010, 01:00 PM
Thanks for taking the time to post the pictures and explain them! I really enjoyed your tour!

cletus
04-18-2010, 01:02 PM
Cool pics, great story. Thanks!

bbycrts
04-18-2010, 01:37 PM
Staci tells the story of her fifth new Pineapple Sunday in 3, 2, 1...

eleuke
04-18-2010, 02:52 PM
Great pics. Thanks for the tour. So what's the deal with "Precision Plastics, dba"? Can Paul make me an acrylic uke? I've always dreamed of a clear acrylic tenor uke. Totally see through except the tuners and frets. Wouldn't that be a beauty!

experimentjon
04-18-2010, 03:29 PM
Great pics. Thanks for the tour. So what's the deal with "Precision Plastics, dba"? Can Paul make me an acrylic uke? I've always dreamed of a clear acrylic tenor uke. Totally see through except the tuners and frets. Wouldn't that be a beauty!

Dude, that'd be awesome. From far away, and with worth clears on it, it'd be like an invisible ukulele. Badass.



We were also shown the unique brace used by KoAloha, which not only supports the weight of their workers, but also ensures the quality and volume of sound in the instrument.
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=12024
More to follow...

Wow. I haven't seen or heard about that before. I still wouldn't try it at home though. I wonder how the other K-brand ukuleles stack up in that test. Is it easier to destroy another brand of uke by sitting on it?


Oh, you took awhile to come to the KoAloha side but you have indulged heavily in the Kool-Aid now, haven't you? : )


Haha, that describes it pretty well. I remember reading Staci posting that she didn't really care for KoAlohas back a long time ago. And I thought to myself...whaaaa? But I see that she has seen the light. Great instruments. :)

ghostrdr
04-18-2010, 04:35 PM
If you *need* another pineapple Sunday and need a good home for your current one, I'd be happy to oblige. ;)

Dane
04-18-2010, 05:48 PM
I wonder if I can stand on my uke....

heyjude
04-18-2010, 10:50 PM
I wonder if I can stand on my uke....
As long as you keep one foot on the floor.:)

Jude

guitharsis
04-18-2010, 11:50 PM
Great pics. Thanks for posting.

ichadwick
04-19-2010, 01:46 AM
Nice. Thanks for sharing that. It makes me want to make the trip to the island myself just to visit the factories. I envy your visit.

However, I have a question. What's with the finger sign? It is some religious gesture? It looks like something I've seen done by Elvis impersonators, too, so I'm guessing it's something Christian?

rasputinsghost
04-19-2010, 05:01 AM
I'm pretty sure it's for "Hang Loose."

Great pics btw!

wickedwahine11
04-19-2010, 05:31 AM
Oh, you took awhile to come to the KoAloha side but you have indulged heavily in the Kool-Aid now, haven't you? : )

Yep, I'm a KoAloha Kool aid drinker now! And experimentjon, it took me a while to see the light, but yep, KoAloha's rule.


Staci tells the story of her fifth new Pineapple Sunday in 3, 2, 1...

Ha! I wish...not unless I want to come home to divorce papers, all my stuff piled in the garage with my cat sitting on top...


As long as you keep one foot on the floor.:) Jude

Actually, Keith (I think that was his name, my apologies if not) did step with the other foot off the floor. But my crappy camera takes too long to reload so that is the only shot I got. If you want to watch Brian, the customer service guy do it, watch this special on the Travel Channel about KoAloha. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eeAbhZtsR3c


What's with the finger sign? It is some religious gesture? It looks like something I've seen done by Elvis impersonators, too, so I'm guessing it's something Christian?

Nope, not Christian...it is Hawaiian. It is the shaka symbol for "hang loose." You can find it on tshirts and keychains all over the islands, and it is just a friendly island gesture.

Ronnie Aloha
04-19-2010, 06:54 AM
Great pics. Thanks for the tour. So what's the deal with "Precision Plastics, dba"? Can Paul make me an acrylic uke? I've always dreamed of a clear acrylic tenor uke. Totally see through except the tuners and frets. Wouldn't that be a beauty!

Pops originally had a plastics manufacturing company. This evolved into the uke company. The story of the transformation is on the KoAloha Story DVD.

Lori
04-19-2010, 07:55 AM
Thanks for sharing the great photos. So, did you buy any ukes while you were there? Or did you put in any special orders for one??? Looks like a fun trip.

–Lori

wickedwahine11
04-19-2010, 08:59 AM
Thanks for sharing the great photos. So, did you buy any ukes while you were there? Or did you put in any special orders for one??? Looks like a fun trip.

–Lori

I didn't buy any, though I did have a KoAloha tenor on hold at Larry's Music in Kapa'a for a day. It was gorgeous but it just wasn't in the cards. So I came home and put a low g string on my Kamaka so I can convince my ears that I got a new ukulele.

Tigeralum2001
04-19-2010, 11:34 AM
Awesome post WW! I look forward to 1. seeing the factory someday and 2. my Sceptre out of that batch!!!!

SailingUke
04-19-2010, 11:57 AM
And finally, my favorite photo from the day. This is of Mom, Alvin Okami, my Pineapple Sunday and I in front of a wall of beautiful KoAloha ukuleles. I can't thank the folks at KoAloha enough for taking the time out of their busy schedules to walk us through their factory and talk story with us. My Pineapple Sunday is a treasure to me, in large part due to the heart and soul of the Okami family. Mahalo nui loa to everyone at KoAloha Ukulele, especially Alvin Okami.

Great pictures, I bet this was a fun tour. I want to go someday.
BTW, You are your Mom are cute, too bad you guys are taken.

ceviche
04-19-2010, 12:03 PM
I recently did a Google Map search for KoAloha and found that they're only a moderate walk from the Hawaii branch of my union. One day, I have to sail with Matson and bring back another uke for my collection! I have a dream...

--Dave E.

Spooner
04-22-2010, 10:08 PM
AWESOME photos and recap!
The Okami's and KoAloha crew are great.
Nice uke too. ; 0 )

ichadwick
04-23-2010, 12:59 AM
Nope, not Christian...it is Hawaiian. It is the shaka symbol for "hang loose." You can find it on tshirts and keychains all over the islands, and it is just a friendly island gesture.
Thanks for that. I've wondered and I stand corrected. Here in the wintry northlands, one doesn't see Hawaiian hand gestures a lot. Hard to do with mittens on, too. I wonder if the Inuit have a similar gesture Canadians can use?

Do you know if it is new/recent or traditional?

But "Shaka" - sorry for my ignorance, but what is that? The only Shaka I know of is Zulu, half a world away from Hawaii. As I said, I've seen Elvis impersonators do it, but thought it was something to do with American/Christian culture. I'm confused and I'll obviously have to look into it more. But thanks again for the info.