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Glimpses into the stories behind a few of our ads

Fireplace & Home Center Fireplace & Home Center owners and trained consultants: (left to right) Kelly Whelan, Jeffrey Mermel, Sally Mermel, Mary Davy, Carole Makanui, Jennifer Pietri and Mel Bidal


anet Louise, owner of Village Toy Shop, comes from a family of entrepreneurs. Her grandparents ran retail, tailoring and lodging enterprises and her parents owned an Italian restaurant, Giovanni’s Pizza, in Fullerton, CA. Growing up with these role Owner Janet Louise and some of models inspired her desire the educational toys on display at to be self-employed. Village Toy Shop “Part of the reason I moved to East Hawai‘i in 2001,” Janet says, “is because I thought this would be a good place to manifest my vision, a place where ‘mom-and-pop’ businesses still successfully exist. Shortly after moving here I found myself at Wal-Mart looking for a birthday gift for a friend’s grand-daughter and I wondered ‘Where else can one buy toys in the Hilo area?’ With a little research I learned that there was a great need for quality, educational toys. My journey into the magical world of the specialty toy business had begun.” The Village Toy Shop opened in 2004 in the Kea’au Village Market and two years later moved into downtown Hilo . “We like being downtown, situated between two restaurants with good traffic, ample parking, nice restrooms, a great landlord and reasonable rent,” she says. Janet analyzed the market and determined how to make Village Toy Shop a unique, ‘destination shopping experience,’ setting it apart from “Big-Box” stores. “Small retailers cannot compete with national chains on price. We can offer a variety of toys not found elsewhere in town, along with a fun shopping experience and help in selecting just the right toys,” she says, and is happy to report that the business is growing. Parents, grandparents, teachers, therapists, aunties and uncles and the young (and young-at-heart) are all part of the Village Toy Shop customer base. It offers unique toys that encourage creativity and allow child-directed play. Shoppers will find the classic toys they remember from childhood and toys that help young children learn basic skills, art, science, music, games, construction and “active play.” Janet has a background working with families as a child care provider and household manager. “Over the years I learned quite a bit about early childhood development and the value of open-ended, unstructured, creative playtime. It is my objective to develop this business so that it can continue on for generations to come. It’s exciting to know we’re creating childhood memories and contributing to the education and development of our community’s precious young people. I encourage everyone to look at our website for more information.” Store location: 235 Waianuenue Ave., downtown Hilo Phone: 808-969-7888 Email: Website:


effrey Mermel, founder and owner of the Fireplace & Home Center in Historic Downtown Hilo, says he learned about fireplaces or wood stoves back in 1979 when his fiancé, Sally, owner of The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo, suggested he get a woodstove for his house in Volcano Village, where “I was trying to get her to move. She thought it would keep our house cozy and dry.” After researching products, they ordered two woodstoves. It cost about the same amount to ship two as one, he says, so they put the second one up for sale in Sally’s gift shop. They then realized someone had to be on hand to help customers with technical questions and so Jeffrey, who was an artist at the time, found himself becoming a retailer. They started carrying other brands of fireplaces and stoves, needing more display space, and soon The Fireplace & Home Center was born as a separate business. It is still located side by side with The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo, sharing the same common doorway. Over the 32 years since its founding in 1979, the Fireplace & Home Center has grown to carry all the major brands of stoves and fireplaces: Jotul, Heat & Glo, Morso, Heatilator and more. With customers across all the Hawaiian Islands they have found that “it isn’t just folks up in the mountains that want stoves and fireplaces. People get them to take the chill off, get rid of dampness when the rains come, and many just for the sheer joy of a cozy, crackling fire.” Mermel says, “Nowadays, people also are turning to electric fireplaces and even ethanol, a biofuel that requires no chimney system.” The specialty retailer also carries traditional Finnish saunas and the newer, infrared style of sauna, plus charcoal grills and smokers by Big Green Egg— a popular grill donated to many Big Island fundraisers. The downtown Hilo showroom has more than 30 displays, arranged for the homeowner to visualize just how it would appear in their home. The sales staff are all highly trained to assist the customer in planning, design, installation and especially service after the purchase, says Mermel. Location: 256 Kamehameha Ave., downtown Hilo Phone: 808.961.5646 Toll Free: 1.800.760.5646


Village Toy Shop

September-October 2011  
September-October 2011