By Sarah Hodges
When Murat Demirtas and Douglas Grosseur have an idea and believe in it together, it is as if a powerful force lifts their vision off the ground and sends it soaring toward their goal. But not without some heavy lifting on their part! That is how they birthed Vibrations, a truly vibrant, colorful clothing boutique in the heart of Waikiki, Honolulu – in an amazing two and a half months! On October 1, 2022, they decided to start a shop of their own. On December 15 they opened their doors for business! Wow.
Now, Vibrations isn’t their first foray into business. In Istanbul, they opened a successful fortune cookie business once Murat discovered nothing of the kind existed in Turkey [read more about the story here]. After being here in Hawai’i for eight years, Murat got tired of working so hard for someone else’s dream… beautiful as it might be. A lifelong dancer, performer, and former lawyer, Murat realized his passion in life was really to dream, create, and bring his visions to life. He conceived of opening a bright, fabulous clothing shop in Honolulu.
If you’ve ever started a business, or know anyone who has, you know just what a feat it is to get a business off the ground from scratch. And, almost miraculously, business owners Murat and Douglas were able to bring to life an entirely new business between the Autumn equinox and the Winter Solstice. How did they manage to do so? With unwavering belief in what they were creating, determination, and evidently a nice push from behind from their guardian angels or the Universe.
Being first-time business owners in the US, the couple encountered an unexpected financial challenge in not being able to secure a business loan. Although they’d run a successful business in Istanbul, it didn’t count in the eyes of the banks. Even though he is now a citizen who has lived and worked in Hawai’i for 8 years, and who has multiple assets in his name, Murat’s credit record as an immigrant had been blocked from public viewing, so the banks said “No” to a business loan.
Without help from banks, Murat and Douglas decided to rely entirely upon their personal credit cards to finance the fledgling company. They systematically timed the use of their cards to be able to pay off each one as the payment date arrived. Of course that plan counted on getting a quick revenue flow from the shop. It was dicey odds. Despite the riskiness of this approach, their intuition and faith in Murat’s vision told them it was all going to work out. Would it?
Once they had a plan for self-funding, Murat and Douglas went about securing agreements with the international designers whom they loved and whose clothing they wanted in their shop. The designers were delighted to have their clothing carried at a store in Hawai’i and happily agreed to supply them.
At that point, Murat and Douglas were asking themselves, ‘Where would our top choice location be for our store?’ Their joint consensus was the International Marketplace in Waikiki. Perhaps kismet or their unwavering belief in Vibrations brought them to very quickly meet the rental agent for International Market Place. Within a half-hour zoom call the agent sized up the new potential tenants, with all the good work each of them had done on O’ahu and all the excellent connections that they had made. She and the mall’s management especially appreciated that they would be getting a family-owned business that is not a chain, offering a product line no one else in the state sells. She suggested a lovely second-floor venue for them to check out, and they loved it. The mall graciously welcomed them to be a part of the retail community, and within the unbelievably short span of one week, they bravely signed a lease!
One of the trickiest steps in their opening process was their signage. Unless you’ve had a business storefront, most people would not even consider how big of an operation this step can become. Without a set plan, Murat and Douglas approached a local sign shop, described to them what they wanted, and had it made. They brought back their beautiful etched, backlit sign to the storefront only to find there was no easy way to install it, let alone get electricity to it. Thus began what they describe as one of the most stressful parts of their opening process.
They turned to their contractor for help, who managed to build a crawlspace from the interior of the shop behind the signage. Their electrician then creatively brought electricity and thus light. And, the electrician in the end was the one who mounted the sign. Finally, they had their name Vibrations dazzling the front of the shop.
Their retail space had previously served as a Don Ho celebration area. Within the shop was a built-in table where the hired DJ would set up. With the budget that they had, it became clear to Murat and Douglas that there was no taking out that table. So, again they turned the situation into an opportunity – the Don Ho celebration DJ table would become a useful fixture in their shop. And it worked!
Meanwhile they purchased the drop-dead gorgeous mannequins that Murat insisted the shop absolutely could not live without. Their contractor quickly installed the fixtures they needed to hang the clothes. Douglas and Murat held their breath and crossed their fingers, their shipments of beautiful shirts and shorts and bathing suits began to arrive, barely in time for the Christmas shopping season!
On December 15, 2022, Murat and Douglas proudly held an opening ceremony at the Vibrations storefront in Waikiki. Still & Moving Center’s resident kumu, Mālia Helelā, graciously offered a Hawaiian blessing to prepare the space for good things to come.
And sure enough, the customers began flowing through the front door, eager to snap up all the uniquely bright, stylish clothes they weren’t finding anywhere else on island. Since the store has quickly met with success, not being burdened with a bank loan has turned into a blessing in disguise.
9 months after opening, Murat and Douglas are overjoyed to see the responses from their customers. “People are loving the colors,” says Murat. With patrons arriving from all over the world, they even have Hawaiian customers routinely coming from places such as Molokai island to shop the variety of lively patterns. The styles are crisp and clean, with a flattering cut. And although the brands they carry are ostensibly menswear, many women are also enjoying their shirts and shorts.
This week, Murat and Douglas share the delight of having Don Ho’s grandson create and install an eye-grabbing mural on their shop wall. All stars seem to align, with Do Ho’s statue standing in the courtyard of International Marketplace just below the Vibrations shop.
I can hear in Murat and Douglas’ voices that this endeavor has been both a blessing for them and for many people in Hawai’i – not just with clothing to feel confident and radiant in, but also with the care they offer to every customer who walks through their doors.
Murat and Douglas feel they’re in the right place, with a wonderful community in Waikiki. You can see the Vibrations float they’ll be taking through the Pride parade this coming October.
See the colors!
Get the Still & Moving App
This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)