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The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo

Photo Credit: Nicholas Souza

I decided this year is my take-back year, so I’m trying to get a handle on my self-care…getting a little bit more balanced." - Tracy, owner of The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo.

We had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Tracy about her journey of becoming a business owner and could not agree more with not only her business perspective but her outlook on life itself!

Who else is claiming this year as their take-back year?! After the many challenges that everyone is faced with, we are with Tracy on using the time that we are given now to grow and add value in all that we do.

So who is Tracy, and how did she become the owner of The Most Irresistible Shop?

Born in Hilo, she is fourth generation from Japan, with great grandparents who came to Hawaii 100 years ago to work in the plantations and build a new life. They started in Big Island, and she also has family roots from Kona, Captain Hook area and Pahoa area. Coming from a family of farmers, her grandmother was a farmer in Pahoa.

Tracy always thought she would go wherever her work took her and grew up with a love for drawing, doodling and creating. While she knew she had a creative side, she decided on business school because she felt it was more practical. So she graduated University of Oregon in ’92 with her business degree. After graduating college, she ended up back in Hilo, where she met her husband and began working locally owned businesses in marketing and sales.

One of her first jobs was working at Mikomi, well-known for Portuguese cuisine, where she was the sales rep for the local manufacturer, met with buyers, and did demos in the market. She then went on to a well-known local company doing marketing and advertising where she learned how to do ads.

Tracy then had her first child and began working at General Grove Properties, which owns many shopping centers around the country, where she was the marketing manager and developed more connections with retailers and business owners. When she first started there, she thought, “I have the best job because I love to shop and love clothes.”

So how did the store come about from this?

Sally Mermel, previous owner of The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo, started the shop in 1976 in downtown Hilo, this being its first location, and also opened Bears Coffee next door, still open today. She then opened a second location at the mall, which that location had a very different concept than her downtown location. This was one of Tracy’s favorite retailers at that mall where she was working! A few years went by when Tracy ran into Sally, during a big recession. Sally told her, “One day I’m going to sell this place.” So Tracy said she was interested, and Sally took her name and number down for future reference. Eight years passed, and one day Sally called her after keeping her phone number in her wallet for all that time. Sally said that she was ready to sell, asking if Tracy was still interested. Come to find out, it had been Tracy’s secret dream for many years to own the store, but it was still a big decision to make. Sally made it easy for Tracy to buy the store and to this day is still her mentor. Tracy calls Sally her fairy godmother, a good friend. The things Sally has imparted onto her, she wants to pass on to other business people, up and coming, just graduated, and be helpful in offering what she knows and the value that might be. Her mission serves to pass that along and do what she can to help people.

Tracy’s favorite part about the shop is being on the sales floor, meeting customers, and helping them find what they’re looking for. Everyone comes in with a problem, so she wants to be there to help solve their problem and find ways to help make their life easier.

With all of the changes over the past year, Tracy says it’s hard when you can’t travel and see the items right there when buying for the store, especially with the seasonal changes. As a shop owner during 2020, the priority at the top of her head was “how am I going to pay my bills?” Because everything is cash flow, when it first started coming in it was okay but when it stopped, she asked herself, “what do I do?” Currently, she’s been renovating and expanding the store, which adds another layer of pressure. As her kids started online school, she felt pulled in many directions from trying to be a good mom, make sure they were on task, and working with the store. Whatever opportunities came up where she could get assistance she did. Any webinar, every little thing that could help her get through it, motivate and keep her positive she said yes to.

With all of the changes in the few past years, Tracie has noticed an increase in work from home clothing with people now starting to buy dresses again. The style in Hilo has remained very eclectic, with many local designers. With that in mind, we asked Tracy how she would describe her personal style!

She tells us that her style has changed a lot over time. When she first bought the store, it was very J. Crew, bright colors, mixing t-shirt with fun skirt and blingy costume jewelry. She also had a business style, not high fashion but more mix and match. Since buying the store, her style has gone through stages of patterns and geometrics as well as more natural fibers. Now she pays attention more to where things are made and how they’re made - not so much fast fashion but slow fashion.

As she is changing and maturing, she’s looking for clothing not only for herself but also her customers. She makes it a point to find garments that will be practical and look good on different body types. In Hilo there are customers of all different sizes, shapes, and ages.

One of the trickier elements of owning a store, Tracy says, is trying to be easier on herself. She has all of these goals that she wants to attain, but the reality is it just takes time and time is a challenge. There also comes the task of people depending on her. She says, “When you’re the one person that has the vision for what you’re trying to accomplish, they’re relying on you to be on it.” While owning a store has its difficulties in itself, Tracy remains grateful to everyone around her and appreciates the part she plays in The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo.

Photos by Nicholas Souza

Mahalo from the KAPAMAG Team,

Written by Katlin Tara for KAPAMAG

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