When I first arrived on Maui in 1973 I was fresh out of college and was brimming with a desire to get something happening on the island.
After a year of working at the Sheraton in Kaanapali as a waiter I had the opportunity one weekend to spend some time in Waikiki. Late that Friday night I was coming out of a famous Waikiki tavern and was solicited by a gentleman on a Pedicab (kind of a bicycle rickshaw) to give me a lift to my hotel. I jumped in and enjoyed the ride and spent the rest of the night thinking about the possibility of using pedicabs back on Maui as a way of giving tours of picturesque Lahaina Towne. My studies in school had always leaned toward history so I thought that a historical tour of the town would be a fun addition to the mix of activities there.
As with most ideas it did not quite turn out as I thought it might. The city fathers and particularly the police department were not in the least impressed with the notion of choking the small streets of Lahaina with a Pedicab business and they rejected my attempts to operate. Realizing the futility of that course I decided to get registered with the State Public Utilities Commission with actual automobiles to be used to give the tours. This process took well over a year but I was successful in obtaining the license. In the meantime I had arranged to lease two parking spaces right in the heart of the town at the corner of Front and Hotel Streets at the Pioneer Inn. This then became my launching area for my newly founded company, Lahaina Towne Tours. I studied everything I could about the history of the town and of the island and on one beautiful winters day I began giving my tours, or at least thought I would. I had made up a simple brochure and took it up to the hotels in Kaanapali and distributed it in the racks the day before. I felt that it was a good value for a tour. It was a 45 min tour that took you to 27 sites throughout Lahaina all along the waterfront and the side streets and extended all the way up to Lahainaluna high school and the ancient printing press up there with gorgeous views of the roadstead area. My vehicle was a VW Thing that held a maximum of four passengers and the total price for the tour was $3.50. I personally was sold on the fact that this was a fantastic price, a very personalized tour and a great value. Sure enough, the next morning I went down to park my vehicle and set up my signage on my extremely busy leased corner ready to open for business. In those days this was the busiest corner in town and Shoreline Transportation which was the city bus at the time dropped off their clients continuously right there all day. So I had just arrived at the corner ready to start a massive day of tours when I could see a lady working her way through the crowds with her eyes focused directly on me. This is what I was expecting, my first in a long line of clients for the day. She asked politely if this was the place where she would catch the Lahaina Town Tour and I explained that yes it certainly was. She asked when she could have a tour and I asked her how many people were in her party. She explained that it was just here and I regretfully told her that we needed a minimum of two persons to sign up for the tour. I told her to just come back in an hour or so and I would put her together with others that were interested. She left the corner, somewhat rejected looking and I never saw her again. Not only that but I never had anyone else come up to ask to take a tour for the next two weeks. Had I known the true situation of my fledgling business I would have gladly taken the single lady all around the town and likely on multiple tours if she wanted. That day was the beginning of the end of Lahaina Towne Tours. I was able to develop some business over the course of the next month but it never, as a business, ever turned the corner.
Shortly there after I applied for an extended full island license from the PUC and started giving tours over the whole island. After about a year of that I finally came to realize that my real calling was to just stay put on my leased corner, talk to people and recommend and sell other tours on the island. This then is what we have been doing at Tom Barefoot's Tours for the last forty years.
In the 80's Tom upgraded locations and moved from his activity kiosk to a much larger store. Here on Front Street, Tom Barefoot's Tours grew and it was not too long before there were so many return clients calling back that he had to open a second location just to deal with all the phone calls that were coming in.
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