Business is all good at the Dusty Donkey Emporium

  • Dusty Donkey Emporium volunteers pose for a photo while processing donations. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

The Dusty Donkey Emporium, Waikoloa’s funky little thrift shop, celebrated its fourth year in business on Saturday.

The thrift shop is part of a growing network of community enterprises based at the Waikoloa Stables and is operated by the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative (WDFI), a nonprofit organization dedicated to lowland dry forest conservation. Proceeds from sales fuel their forest restoration and community education programs.

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In partnership with the Waikoloa Village Association, the shop opened in 2016 and has become a treasured place for island residents to donate used goods and shop for great deals on second-hand clothing and homewares all while supporting community and conservation.

The Dusty Donkey Emporium was conceived by Waikoloa Village resident and founding member of WDFI, Beverley Brand, who wanted to create an ongoing revenue source for the nonprofit organization.

“I thought it would be a good way to support the dry forest efforts now that I’m physically unable to help in the field,” said Brand.

While doing volunteer work in the forest preserve can be challenging, the thrift shop is easily accessible and it has become a place to socialize and learn about the unique environment of the region from the enthusiastic volunteers that manage the shop.

“It certainly took on a life of its own,” said Brand. “It has become a community builder, not just for Waikoloa Village, but the whole island. It’s something of a hub, there are people that come in every day just to visit.”

Three days per week, converted horse stables are opened up and clothing racks are wheeled out into the covered walkways. In a matter of minutes, the stables become an open-air retail shop with a volunteer workforce as eclectic as the items sold within.

From forest conservation followers to life-long thrifters, a unique community has formed at the shop. Long-time WDFI supporter Linda Williamson said that her first visit to the Dusty Donkey was to drop off donations but she left with a volunteer job.

“I’ve loved it from the minute I started, I love the comradery,” said Williamson.

Volunteer cashier and seasoned treasure hunter Deanna Pogue has been donating her time at the thrift shop for years.

“I love marrying stuff to people,” she said, “when someone is looking for a special item or needs something specific, I like finding it for them.”

Kehau Tremaine found the thrift shop and the volunteers that work there to be a welcoming group where “you can feel the aloha spirit.”

In that spirit, she has also found satisfaction in repairing and reselling items that may have otherwise been discarded.

“I cannot throw things away, I was brought up in a poor family, everything we had was recycled. If we can make use of it, or sell it, then that’s better than throwing it away,” she said.

As a nonprofit concerned with environmental stewardship, recycling, and reusing items collected in the community is an important part of WDFI’s values system and mission. Ultimately, shopping at the Dusty Donkey Emporium results in the planting of thousands of native trees including the iconic wiliwili (Erythrina sandwicensis) which might make the thrift shop one of the most sustainable places to shop on the island.

As Brand says, “there are just so many pluses”.

The Dusty Donkey Emporium is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Donations are accepted during this time.

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The Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to protect, promote, and restore native Hawaiian Dry Forest.

For more information, visit www.waikoloadryforest.org.

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