Thursday, February 19, 2009

How Kona Bay Fabrics Began—The Story

People often wonder how Kona Bay Fabrics came to be. It’s an interesting story (I’m biased—but it really is!). So grab your coffee and I’ll tell you the story.

My career managing political campaigns brought me to Hawaii in 1974 right after college. The food, the weather and yes, the beautiful women (did I say women—I meant scenery—I was young) of Hawaii kept me here.

After I found myself with a beautiful young family, I was ready for something new. Kona coffee was a hot commodity, so I started Kona Bay Coffee Estates. I had made the transition to business owner and I liked it.

Textiles were a recurring topic during Japan trips I was making on behalf of the coffee business. I knew little about textiles. In 1991, that changed.

An invitation from a Japanese trading company I was regularly doing business with to attend a textile trade show on the west coast sounded like a fun outing to the mainland. Trading companies are brokers who deal in many different products. This company wanted to investigate textiles in the US.

I was astounded. At food trade shows people sample your coffee and take their thoughts back home with them. At the textile show, people were lined up waiting to place their order. Hmmm, I was balancing the options in my mind—A business where you get an instant order or one where you wait for orders. You can guess where the scale tipped. The trading company offered to provide me with bolts of fabric—cotton sateen’s with oriental designs so I could test the waters.

That fall I bought a booth at the annual quilt market show in Houston. People like Mary Ellen Hopkins, the famous quilter we all love, saw my tiny booth and our gorgeous fabrics and dragged hundreds of quilters to my booth to see our designs. My Asian fabric business took hold. I felt like I had been swimming in this pool all my life and the water felt wonderful. Kona Bay Fabrics was born.

Now, seventeen years later, I am just as enthusiastic and excited as ever. I am still fascinated by the artistic talent and appreciate the dedication that quilters show for their craft.

I have made many life long friends as a result of Kona Bay Fabrics and I’m grateful to be a part of the quilting and fabric community.

Thanks for letting me be your Textile Samurai!


  1. I've just found your blog and now subscribe thru Bloglines. I find it fun to read. remind me of Bob Purcell who owns Superior Threads; do you know him?

  2. Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this! I love reading about how people started their businesses - and it seems like more often than not, it happens by happy accident. It's also so inspiring - and rare - to hear someone talk about how much they love their work.