Business profile Maui Wowi

`A bit of Hawaii' in Howard County

March 28, 2007|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,special to the sun

Tessa Goldscher, owner of the new Maui Wowi Hawaiian store in the Columbia Gym, wears a Hawaiian shirt and a lei, and greets visitors with "aloha." She has always loved Hawaii, she said, so opening a shop that sells Hawaiian coffees, smoothies and other treats from the 50th state seemed like a nice fit for her.

"I love everything beach," she said.

The Clarksville store is a family project. Goldscher's father, Ron Anderson, an education professor who lives in Laurel, is a partner. Her sister, Lora, who recently graduated from Towson University, works at the store while building her photography business.

"It was my mom's idea that we be a family business, that we all work together," said Goldscher, who lives in Columbia. Ellen Anderson died suddenly in November at age 60, possibly of an aneurysm, Ron Anderson said. The store is, in some ways, a memorial to her.

"She was very enthusiastic about it," he said. "She was really looking forward to this. I know she'd be very proud."

Goldscher had recently lost her job as an event planner and was looking for new opportunities, she said. Her parents suggested she start a franchise. "I did some research on my own and I found Maui Wowi," Goldscher said.

The company -- which is based in Colorado, not Hawaii -- offers two kinds of franchises. One is a cart that can travel to events, and the other is a retail location. Goldscher signed on for both.

She has taken the cart to events such as the Howard County Relay for Life in June, she said. And this month, she opened the retail store in the Columbia Gym, which is part of the Columbia Association.

For the opening March 23 and 24, 10 percent of the proceeds went to the Carol Jean Cancer Foundation, a cause close to Goldscher's heart because she and her father are cancer survivors, she said.

Rob Goldman, vice president for sports and fitness for the Columbia Association, said private retailers at Columbia Association facilities are not new, though the sports facilities have not had vendors selling coffee and snacks.

The association requested proposals for the Columbia Gym and Supreme Sports Facility, he said, and selected Maui Wowi for the Columbia Gym and a Seattle's Best store for Supreme.

"We looked at a number of different vendors and thought that these two were the best," he said. He noted that the sports facilities will continue to offer free coffee, but "if people want specialty coffees or smoothies, that will be available now, too."

The Maui Wowi in the Columbia Gym is the first in Maryland. The company started selling low-fat smoothies in 1983 and became a franchise operation in 1997. Hawaiian espressos and cappuccino drinks were added in 2003. About 400 franchise locations are in operation, according to the company Web site.

The smoothies are made with low-fat yogurt and come in flavors such as kiwi, lemon-lime and mango orange. They can be supplemented with protein boosters.

Hawaiian coffee drinks include espresso and cappuccino, as well as frozen coffee drinks in sweet flavors such as Tahitian vanilla chill and cookies and cream. A Hawaiian lemonade, similar to a slushy, is also popular, Goldscher said.

The store also sells Power Bars and other small snacks. Eventually, it might offer products including suntan lotion, T-shirts and bags of coffee, Goldscher said.

Ron Anderson said he is proud of his daughters. "I think so far they're doing a very good job," he said. "They had a goal to honor their mother."

The Columbia Gym location is decorated with a surfboard along one wall. Drinks are served with paper umbrellas. Every transaction begins with "aloha" and ends with "mahalo," which means thank you.

"I feel like I'm bringing a bit of Hawaii to Howard County," Goldscher said.

Maui Wowi Hawaiian is in the Columbia Gym, 6151 Day Long Lane, Clarksville. The store is mainly for people using the gym, but nonmembers can go to the store by obtaining a guest pass at the front door. The phone number is 410-531-0800.

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