KEAUHOU — Come for a story — Luie Kona can spin them as good as anyone — but stick around long enough you’ll probably come home with a watch, too.
Luie has 9,000 of them.
“I just became obsessed with the collecting,” he said.
He bought them by the box loads — at flea markets, garage sales or sidewalk sales.
He learned over the years never to ask the price for one watch someone was selling, always ask instead how much they wanted for their complete inventory. You can catch the seller off guard and usually land a swinging deal.
“Buying is where you make your money,” the lifelong salesman said.
But as to why watches, they were his lifeline.
In 2014, the Californian suffered a stroke. He’d recover, and his medical experience that used state-of-the-art equipment was documented in a publication for Providence Health Services of Southern California, the hospital system where he received his care.
“At a coffee farm on the Big Island of Hawaii where he lives much of the time, he’s been working hard to recover function in his left hand with his own brand of therapy that includes juggling and watch repair,” the spring 2015 article states.
“It kept me alive and alert,” Luie said of the watches he’d buy, shine and repair as he regained his health.
That coffee farm, by the way, is in Kealakekua and those watches are now for sale in Keauhou.
Those 9,000 watches? Luie wants to unload ‘em.
The 82-year-old is hosting an estate sale at the Keauhou Shopping Center. He’s not looking to make a financial killing, he said, he just wants to find them new homes. Luie lives with his daughter, Debbie, and they’ve run out of space to store them.
“Every room of the house,” Debbie said of the real estate Luie’s collection takes up. “There are watches everywhere.”
But besides clearing space, the watches have done their job. Luie doesn’t show outward signs of a stroke, and that obsession to collect and tinker isn’t nearly as strong.
“It saved my life,” Luie said. “Four years ago, I was a basket case.”
The store front is adjacent Bianelli’s Gourmet Pizza and Pasta. It will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday in May and June and carries watches by big names, brand names, vintage or new, wind up or battery-operated with elastic bands or ones that fasten. He sold 11 his first day. Prices are as low as $10. The name of the game is unloading them, after all.
Luie, who is known around Kona as the Watch Hunter, wasn’t always a clockwork guru. On the contrary, he had quite the career in California as a furniture salesman — he moved waterbeds when they were brand new like hotcakes — and worked as a hairstylist around Hollywood. A better salesman or storyteller, it’s hard to say, but a name like Kona takes pizzazz to pull off.
The best part about his stories, though?
“They’re all true,” he said.