BookEnds, courtesy of Kailua Town.
BookEnds, courtesy of Kailua Town.

Local bookstore fosters sense of community

Kailua-based bookstore “BookEnds” preserves Hawaiian culture and provides a platform for local authors

BookEnds, located in Kailua town, is a locally owned bookstore that carries new and used books for all ages. It is an independent neighborhood bookstore that remains a landmark for over twenty five years. The store was founded by Pat Banning in 1998 and since then the store was named the city’s best neighborhood book store by Honolulu Magazine in 2018.

BookEnds also has a dedicated section for Hawaiian culture that includes many books penned by local authors. This store also holds events to celebrate the community and welcomes people from across the world. In an exclusive interview, Aieriel Mageary of the Mirror sat down with Sarah Hua, a bookkeeper who has worked at BookEnds for the last few years, to talk about the store and its legacy.

How did the idea of BookEnds transpire?

BookEnds was created by Pat Bannings who started out working at another bookstore in Honolulu as not only a manager but also as a buyer and seller. Due to the store closing in 1997, the experience working there inspired Pat to open her own store the following year in 1998. She expressed her interest in sharing her love of books with the town of Kailua and this is kind of how the store came to be in the first place. Due to her background and years of experience gained working in book shops, Pat became an expert at opening her own bookstore. She was a buyer for her previous store and because of this it allowed her to kickstart her collection for her new store with ease. She has a good eye for rare and unique books. The store also allows people to come in and sell their books, which has helped in a tremendous way of gathering the surplus of books we have today. But BookEnds is more than just that; what also adds to the charm are all the little knick knacks and greeting cards that inspire the imagination and adds to the local feel of the store.

Can you tell us about the bookstore’s mission and how it actively promotes local Hawaiian authors and their works within the community?

I believe the shop was created with the intent in mind to create a welcoming space where kids can come in and not feel afraid but actually feel excited. Now for our customers that are not from the ages of 5 to 11, we try to carry stuff that we love with the hopes and intent that they will love them too. So obviously we are based on an urban island that is enriched with a culture that you simply cannot ignore and it is and has become a big part of our store taking up an entirety of a corner at the bookstore. We display the work of local authors who are involved with the community and the Hawaiian islands. We also host events with these authors that get the chance to come in our store and be a part of the community even further. Just a couple months ago, we had an author signing in July in our store for a book titled Surfing Sisterhood Hawaii by Mindy Pennybacker. We also have an Instagram page where we display all these events and cater to all kinds of interests and book series as well.

Hawaii is renowned for its cultural diversity. How does the bookstore actively engage with and celebrate this diversity through its selection of books and literary events?

The fact that our selections are typically curated and handpicked is a big part in how we actively engage and celebrate diversity. We get to pick and choose what comes in and what we display or rotate in and out depending on what’s relevant or even the local stories that are more recent. We actively seek out literature that represents the myriad of cultures that exist in Hawaii. Our shelves can range from a wide variety of work, anywhere from Native Hawaiian authors to stories that reflect Asian and Pacific Islander heritage and narratives that highlight the experiences of various immigrant communities. We want to ensure that every member of our community can find a work of literature that resonates with their background or at least relates to them. We also celebrate diversity by looking for the success stories that are out there.

In your opinion, why is it important for the community to have access to literature that represents the varied cultures and traditions of Hawaii?

I think that it’s pretty important and crucial to have easy access to literature that honors the Hawaiian culture for several reasons, really. Not only because you should be informed about the community you reside in. It is also about contributing in your own ways and being respectful of the land you did not originate from. The literature offers a window into these unique cultural backgrounds and fosters an understanding of how the island works. When people can read stories about their neighbors’ experiences, they are able to empathize with them better and have a better sense of how they live. Literature also offers a good way to preserve cultural heritage, which is a big thing in Hawaiian culture; to talk stories which are to be passed down to the upcoming generations. So by providing access to these types of literature, in my opinion, is our contribution to preserving and appreciating Hawaii’s rich culture.

In what ways does BookEnds creates a welcoming and inclusive space for readers from diverse backgrounds to come together and celebrate literature in the community?

I think the location of the shop alone speaks a lot for welcoming a diverse background to wander in and explore the literature we have to offer. Kailua is a very diverse location especially because of the areas around us that are decently well known such as the Lanikai beach. Being situated in a town where different kinds of people come to visit from all different parts of the world creates a pretty welcoming space I would say. The fact that we’re a bookstore too also helps. It attracts people who want a cozy atmosphere. We’ve had interactions with a lot of different people just in our community alone as well. We get a good amount of older folks who come in that we consider regulars now within our community and who happen to reside in the area. Our staff plays a big role too. A lot of us are very knowledgeable and approachable, always ready to assist readers in finding books that resonate with their interests and cultural backgrounds.

Lastly, looking forward, how do you envision the role of BookEnds continuing or developing more of a contribution to the cultural tapestry of our community?

Looking ahead I would hope to potentially see an expansion of our efforts by collaborating more closely with those who are active in our community. I think it would be nice to continue to strengthen our relationships with more local authors to create more opportunities for them to showcase their work and be directly involved. Maybe host events where authors could come in and talk about their books or even read portions of them. But in the meantime, we will continue to diversify our selection and move forward with the events that occur now like our book signings. But our overall goal is to be a place of cultural exchange with people from all walks of life coming in and appreciating the store we are in today and I think we’re doing a very decent job at this. We are definitely committed to evolving with the needs of our community and continuing to provide a place where people can be educated in comfort while contributing to our surroundings and keeping our location in consideration.

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