By Erika Engle
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Lanikai Bath & Body founders Gloria Garvey and Brook Gramann are marking the 10th anniversary of their growing business, but it’s not their first 10th business anniversary.
Lanikai Bath & Body recently opened a store on Guam via a licensing agreement, and also is growing its business through wholesale distribution of its made-in-Hawaii products to other retailers in Hawaii and, potentially, abroad.
The Guam store opened in February at The Plaza Shopping Center in Tumon, where an ABC Store, Honolulu Coffee Co., Kicks/HI and other familiar local company names also can be found alongside high-end retailers of designer clothing and accessories.
Licensee Hojin Song met Garvey some 40 years ago while she was working with the American Red Cross in South Korea. He grew up, became a U.S. citizen and started businesses in California and on Guam, where he wanted to open a Lanikai Bath & Body. He and his wife, Kazumi, trained in the Kailua flagship store at Kailua Shopping Center, and she works in the store daily, Gramann said.
Garvey and Gramann are looking at the possibility of additional licensing agreements, maybe on the neighbor islands or perhaps in beach towns in California, places where it would make sense for the company’s tropically and botanically scented products to have a presence.
It also makes sense for their softly fragrant skin care lines to be in Waikiki and other resort areas through wholesale distribution, which will expand over time.
Garvey and Gramann started their product lines and retail store in 2005 while still operating their marketing consulting firm The Brand Strategy Group (originally known as Garvey + Gramann). That was founded in 1990, meaning their first 10th anniversary in business was some 15 years ago.
They did so because the longtime business partners from Kailua were concerned about changes taking place in their hometown and felt that with some “skin in the game,” they would have a presence and a voice, Garvey said.
They wanted to make sure Kailua preserved locally owned businesses to employ local people, and where local people and visitors alike could shop.
Additionally over the years, Garvey and Gramann have provided their employees monetary assistance toward their college educations, mentoring the young adults along the way.
One of the most important aspects of running a business in Kailua, Gramann said, “is giving back.”
Gramann estimates that in its 10 years Lanikai Bath & Body has donated close to $200,000 to local organizations such as schools and nonprofit organizations, largely in the form of products or gift cards.
For instance, Women in Need receives the company’s handmade soaps for use by its clients.
As marketers they did volumes of research before determining the nature of the business they would do and the branding for it, Gramann said.
“If you don’t have a good brand, you can’t do retail,” Garvey said.
They also thought about what not to do. “We didn’t want to be a kitschy, touristy brand,” she said.
As a result, “we have quite a local following,” Gramann said, including a regular customer on Hawaii island who restocks her favorites via the Lanikai Bath & Body website.
Online business also comes from people on the mainland or elsewhere who may have received products as gifts and want another jar, bottle or bar, or want to explore other fragrances. The website is available in English or Japanese.
Inside the store and online, shoppers will find everything from lip balms to body butters and lotions, bath salts and body washes, Hawaiian Healing Salve, products for baby and shampoo for dogs, which is among their big sellers.
Because of the partners’ determination to not be touristy or kitschy, the “fragrance load” in their products is low, Garvey said. Each fragrance has different notes at the beginning and the end. They are formulated the way a chef creates flavors to interact with the palate.
The company’s products started out being made by another company in a private-label arrangement, but in recent years Lanikai Bath & Body has taken its manufacturing in-house. Its soaps, lotions, salves and other branded products all are made in a facility in Kaneohe.
Some items found in the store that are not specifically Lanikai Bath & Body-branded are made by friends and family members. They include the back scratchers and long-handled brushes that are hand-painted by Garvey’s niece Gillian Siemanowsky. People keep the brushes in their cars or by their doors to brush sand off to keep from tracking it all over.
Garvey and Gramann try to introduce a new product once each quarter, and this time around, three new balms are in the works. The Lemon Verbena, Honey, and Aloe and Kukui balms should be in the store in about three weeks, Gramann said.