KIHEI - Just off the Piilani Highway in North Kihei, there's a pooch named Baby greeting discerning furniture shoppers.
"She has her own clientele," said Suzanne Kellom, American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) member and president of Island Attitudes Furnishings & Design Center. "At Christmas, she gets more cards than we do!"
Three years ago, Suzanne and husband/business partner Richard Kellom opened Island Attitudes at their 2,700-square-foot location at South Shore Plaza.
This serene tropical bedroom is one of many settings on display at Island Attitudes in Kihei. The 2,700-square-foot showroom includes Lexington Furniture’s “Tommy Bahama” tropical line, featuring bedroom sets, upholstery, dining sets, bar stools, coffee tables and end tables.
"We wanted to be in Kihei," Richard said. "We wanted to serve South Maui. Today about 50 percent of our business comes from Kihei/Wailea, about 40 percent from West Maui (Suzanne was with Moore Interiors in Lahaina for about seven years) and about 10 percent from Central Maui/Upcountry."
The couple's experience in building and furnishings spans almost three decades. Richard was a Maui building contractor working in every aspect of the trade, including plumbing, electrical, flooring, carpentry and roofing.
And Suzanne's rsum includes years ago being only the second woman ever promoted to store manager for Wickes Furniture Corporation, at the time a national, Chicago-based, 22-store company.
"We're a package deal, "Suzanne said of her 22-year marriage and business partnership. "Richard does project management and I interior design."
In 1989, Richard was hired to restore the Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Kula.
"Suzanne did all the interior design, from choosing colors to the layout of the pews," Richard said.
Suzanne said a lot of people on Maui want someone to oversee new construction and remodels for them while they're back home on the Mainland. "We're the liaison between the contractor and the owner," she said.
And Richard added that Island Attitudes "may be the only true, one-stop design center on Maui. We offer interior design, furniture, upholstery, carpeting, area rugs, draperies, window shades, wall papers, flooring, accessories and installation," he said.
To become an interior designer, Suzanne studied not only beginning and advanced interior design, but also art history, drafting, architecture, color, lighting and furniture design.
A walk around their easy-flow showroom highlights their combined talents with separate furniture "vignettes" - sitting areas, bedrooms and dining areas. And all settings display accessories and local art that blend in with the style and dcor of each vignette.
And there's also a fabric display area with samples galore.
"We have one of the largest fabric libraries on the island," Suzanne said.
Island Attitudes' inventory includes Lexington Furniture's "Tommy Bahama" tropical line, featuring bedroom sets, upholstery, dining sets, bar stools, coffee tables and end tables.
An extensive variety of Hunter Douglas window treatments as well as the sought-after product line from Horizon shades, the Averte' Natural Fold especially suited for sliding doors, are also on display in their showroom.
Be sure to ask about their spring sale - 50 percent off on selected items and 20 percent off on any special order sofa sleeper with your choice of frame style and fabric.
Maui's businesses have been challenged the last few years, but Suzanne and Richard believe in perseverance. It's a lesson Illinois native Suzanne learned early on when, at age two, she was struck with polio.
"I had to learn to walk again," she said. Then, about 18 years ago, she had a "post polio" relapse. To combat the disease, she took up taekwondo, earning a second-degree black belt.
That kind of attitude is what makes Island Attitudes a continuing Maui success story.
With five employees and a steadily increasing customer base, the store's future looks bright.
"I love this business," Suzanne said. "It was always my dream to have a furniture and design center, and when the time was right, Richard said, 'Let's do it.' "
Maui's wonderful mix of business people always guarantees a good story.
Richard's father was from Spokane, Washington. While stationed in Japan after W.W.II, he met and married Richard's mother, a Japanese-American born in Sacramento, who had recently moved to Japan with her parents and sisters after being released from an internment camp in California.
Fluent in Japanese, Richard's aunt got a job with the U.S. military in Tokyo as secretary to Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Richard was born in Tokyo but grew up in California after his family moved back to the States.
And what about Baby, the doggy in the window? She was born on Maui, but there's more to her story, too, so visit her Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to hear the rest of the story
Island Attitudes is located at 411 Huku Lii Place behind Blackie's Pit Stop. Appointments are also available by calling 879-4147.