Think about retailing in Honolulu and the first thing to come to mind is the Ala Moana shopping center, the seventh largest mall in the U.S. and home to Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and a long list of specialty stores.
But there’s another development making strides in the city — at least among the luxury community: Velocity Honolulu, a 235,000-square-foot mixed-use development at 888 Kapiolani Boulevard that sports an unusual offer.
The development, which is located less than a mile from downtown, features upscale boutiques and restaurants as well as a luxury car dealership and auto concierge program along with 388 high-end condominiums. It opened in 2016.
One piece of the project is Sixty-One Hawaii, a men’s boutique that focuses on boutique American brands such as Jeanshop, Slightly Alabama, 7 Diamonds, Jack Mason and others. The store also has a four-chair barbershop that offers Old School cuts and classic shaves. The store opened at the end of last year.
“Our specialty is making special retail places,” said Brad Nicolai, president of JN Group, which developed the Velocity project with Oliver McMillan LLC. JN Group was founded by Nicolai’s father, Joe, more than a half-century ago and is one of the oldest automotive companies in Hawaii with franchises for Audi, Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley and Jaguar. It has since branched out into other ventures such as Velocity Honolulu.
Some 95 percent of the brands carried at Sixty-One are exclusive to the market, Nicolai said, and are intended to appeal to the luxury customer seeking unique merchandise.
Since opening, he said the majority of customers have been locals, largely drawn from the 1,100 residents who call the condominium tower home. But the development’s automotive component also draws visitors to the island.
“We’re not part of a large mall like Ala Moana,” he said, “so people are compelled to come here.”
Paul Clayton, director of retail operations for Velocity, said customers are also drawn to the mix at the Sixty-One store. “By going to MAGIC or Agenda, we found a lot of brands are getting diluted and losing their personal touch,” he said. But the labels carried in the store buck that trend by having unique stories to tell. “That’s what’s missing in retail today,” he said. “And a lot of these small, start-up brands don’t have the opportunity to really get into the market.”
Since opening, the store has performed well, they said, and the future is bright. “Hawaii is such an untapped market,” Clayton said. “And we’re thriving by creating unique experiences.”
Nicolai said there are no plans to replicate Velocity Honolulu in other cities at this point, but never say never.
“We’re open to seeing where this will take us,” he said. “And this is very promising.”