A Shelluva Business: The Shell Factory
By Kent Coules, Publisher
Update: As of May, 2021 The Shell Factory is closed permanently.
It is always fascinating to learn the back story of how someone ended up in Hawai‘i, or how they started their business. Todd Crawford of Kaua‘i’s The Shell Factory is no exception.
“My parents started The Shell Factory as a retirement business in 1982,” says Crawford. “They had a jewelry store business in San Jose and vacationed regularly on Kaua‘i. They loved it so much they started thinking about retiring here. That was the start of our business.”
Some of the beautiful creations you'll find at The Shell Factory
Originally it was a wholesale business but tourists kept walking into the Kapa‘a location asking if they could buy the shells, so eventually, Crawford’s parents expanded into retail. “There have been times when I’ve considered changing our name because ‘The Shell Factory’ was geared toward the original premise of the business. But after 37 successful years, it’s hard. We still get people walking in on occasion asking us if we manufacture our own shells, however!”
Crawford was in sixth grade when he and his family moved to Kaua‘i. The retirement business eventually grew to six stores. In 2002, he purchased two of those stores from his parents. “I bought them right after 9/11,” he says, adding that “it was not the best time to take over.”
He had to get creative and started crafting mobiles, mirrors, wind chimes, magnets, nightlights and lamps out of shells to supplement sales. It turned out that these additions are still a staple of the business today, both at The Shell Factory and at Sea Reflections, their store located at Kilohana in Lihue.
“We pride ourselves on being able to satisfy every visitor who walks in our stores,” says Crawford. “We have shells that cost 50 cents, and Kaua‘i hand-made jewelry that sells for anywhere from $30 to $1,000. We truly have keepsakes for everyone.”
Crawford makes much of the jewelry himself. He uses local koa wood and beach glass to craft necklaces, bracelets and earrings with pink and blue coral. “We’re one of the only places where you can find Kaua‘i made artisan products, with something in every price range. That’s why we have regular customers who come back year after year.”
Visit The Shell Factory in person at 4-885A Kuhio Hwy, Kapaa on Kaua‘i.
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