At age 25, Ashley Takitani says First Friday in Wailuku has given her the encouragement and affirmation to establish a career in her homegrown community. Takitani works as the marketing director for Maui Thing, the retail store, while also serving as a volunteer on the Wailuku First Friday Committee. Saedene Ota, the owner of Maui Thing and Sae Design, and her staff are active supporters of First Friday in Wailuku. Takitani, a 2004 Baldwin High School graduate, spent about six years away from home, going to school and working in Los Angeles. She jumped at the chance to work with Ota, an award-winning designer involved in many civic activities including the role of University of Hawaii Regent.
First Friday in Wailuku features an evening of entertainment and live acts, local food, art, jewelry and fashion on a block on Market Street. Attendance at First Friday has grown from a few hundred to as many as 4,000 in one night, Takitani said. Maui Thing designed one of the first flyers to attract both residents and visitors to the event and then sponsored the first live band performance at the attraction. “We offer something for family and friends to do on a Friday night,” Takitani said. The 10 or so merchants who put on the event have found that their businesses get a jump start every month by holding the event. “It just does wonders and gives us a really great start to our month,” Takitani said. The merchants have also been happy to welcome other local vendors to showcase their wares and also make money. “First Friday is really all about community. It’s what Maui is all about, we support each other.”
Takitani said the event has proven to her that she can thrive in a career here at home and believes the same can happen for her contemporaries. “Something like First Friday is enticing for young people. The island has grown so much and it’s made it a lot easier to come home,” Takitani said. “When it comes down to it, it’s so much fun and everybody can really have a good time.”