I called Maui Hawaii yesterday in the hopes that I’d be able to talk to Louie Martin, founder of Tropix Surfboards and the Maui Built brand. After speaking with a couple of people at Tropix Central, I finally got him on the phone. I asked him if I could interview him for my blog and he told me he wasn’t interested. I had 15 questions and have been looking forward to speaking with him for a very long time. He said:

We love what we do here . . . Don’t want to do an interview. I’ve got a million things to do.

I told him that I was a huge fan and  I’d been buying his product for the last twenty years. The last time we were in town, we bought schwag for the entire family including my two very young children. (Haoles on Parade!)  He said that was great and I then offered to call him back when he had more time. He told me again he did not want to do an official interview. So we just talked.  I got one question in and the conversation, for the most part, is below.

Louie: I just want people to enjoy my products. We love the products. We do everything based on our local lifestyle. We evolve all those things (lifestyle) through our products. We sponsor a lot of local things like motocross, surfing events, etc.

Me: Why aren’t you doing business online?

Louie: I’ll put it this way. If I do that, I’m going to be another Quicksilver or Billabong. We won’t control anything when it comes to quality. Selling our stuff in department stores. There is no surfing at the mall. Those kids don’t know how to surf. That is not what we are about.

Louie fully understands that the products they create (the brand) is truly an extension of the lifestyle and that anything less is a lie.

Louie: We’re authentic. I want to create things that people will love. Wherever you go in the world you will see something that is one of a kind. We are about creating something that people love. I get calls everyday about ordering products over the phone. We don’t do product catalogs. We had a site up that was mauitropixsurf.com . . . or something like that. It was just one page telling our story and when you clicked anywhere on the page it took you to Aloha airlines. You have to come here to get our product. Maui is our product.

There is kind of a fan site at: http://mauibuiltshirts.blogspot.com and no orders are possible.

Louie: It’s an honor to have you and your family buy our product. It’s like a club and when you see people wearing our products . . . We have pride in what we do and how we have done it. We’ve been working hard for 30 years to create this thing. I have three lawyers to help us protect against infringement. Sometimes it feels like we’ve created a monster.

I told Louie that I had an ad on my site for Maui Built (the turtle graphic on the right) and that it’s linked to an eBay site with Maui Built product on it. I also told him that I’d change the link to point to this post. Louie is the real deal. He understands culture (the Hawaiian culture/surfer lifestyle) and the role his brand plays. He is honest, as his brand.

Additional Information on Maui Built/Tropix Surf Shops: (from the Tropix Surf shop flier)

A favorite with locals, Tropix is Maui’s HOMEGROWN surf company. In 1977, at the age of 15, Louie Martin began building Tropix Surfboards in his backyard in Kehei on Maui’s south shore. Twenty nine years later Tropix Surf Shops and Louie Martin continue to keep it real, bringing you authentic, original and exclusive surfboards, surfwear and surfgear.

The other questions I wanted to ask Louie:

  1. Why aren’t you doing business online?
  2. How do you feel about people selling your product on eBay?
  3. How do you come up with the designs?
  4. Who creates your designs?
  5. What are the inspirations for your designs?
  6. How much of the design work is inspired by Hawaiian culture?
  7. What do you think of the current situation of Hawaiian culture and the goal of succession?
  8. What do you think are the ingredients of a successful business?
  9. How much of your business is tourists?
  10. Do you do any marketing in the traditional sense?
  11. Is there a brand/company that you most admire and why?
  12. Where do you want to take your business in the future?
  13. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
  14. How would you compare the locals only mentality of Maui to Long Beach?
  15. What do you think is at the core of Maui/Hawaiian  culture?

This Ain’t the Mainland