Where Luxury Meets Aloha
Often when talking about business, the word “love” is left out of the conversation. Instead, the spotlight tends to shine on strategies, number analysis, climbing ladders and dominating the competition, among others. But at Neiman Marcus Honolulu, these profound four letters thrive, as if they were infused into the store’s air conditioning system.
Love is woven into the company’s core values, felt in the unwavering devotion of its staff, glimmers through the iconic butterflies that adorn the ceiling and has certainly contributed to the company’s resounding success over the past 25 years.
“Internally we always talk about leading with love,” says general manager Erin Isa Donle. “With everything we do, we think about how it could impact the team, the community or the customers. The team is our biggest asset, and our customers are our biggest supporters, so we want to do what’s right for them.”
Isa Donle, who’s been with Neiman Marcus since its 1998 inception, can attest that some kind of magic is in the air. When she was a sociology and social work major at University of Hawai‘i, the East O‘ahu native held a part-time job at Liberty House before being recruited for Neiman Marcus.
“I really never looked back from there,” says Isa Donle, who started as an assistant. “I enjoyed the fast pace, changing environment … but I think mostly it was the daily interactions I had with people.
“And, as a self-proclaimed shopaholic, having a retail store as your office is a pretty good deal,” she adds with a laugh.
Isa Donle applies that same four-letter word to describing her role — and doesn’t care if it sounds cliché.
“I think people often say, ‘I love my job,’ but I truly love my job. I wouldn’t have been here for 25 years if I didn’t,” says the Kaiser High School grad. “I don’t ever wake up and think, ‘Ugh, another day.’ The people I work with are amazing. Everyone from my senior leadership team to the back of house team to the restaurants to the sales floor are so committed and dedicated.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our late general manager Alan Tomonari, who I deeply admired for his grace. He also had this ability to make everyone feel special and welcome in our store — whether that was a customer or associate, and that’s something I strive to instill in our team.”
Located on the makai side of Ala Moana Center, Neiman Marcus is synonymous with elegance and sophistication. It features the world’s most coveted designer clothes, shoes, handbags, jewelry, cosmetics and beyond, and invites local designers to join the mix — an endeavor unique to the Honolulu store. Past collaborations include Amos Kotomori, Anne Namba, Sig Zane and Tori Richard.
“Over the years, we were able to collaborate with great local talent and it’s been very rewarding,” says Isa Donle. “We enjoy collaborating with over 30 local merchants throughout the years. Big Island Candies does our iconic butterfly cookie. We also collaborated with The Kāhala Hotel & Resort for Hawaiian cookies. There’s so many more, but it’s really curated for our local offerings that are enjoyed by our local and visitor clients.”
Neiman Marcus extends its reach beyond the retail realm though its eateries: Espresso Bar for coffee enthusiasts and the lauded Mariposa, an award-winning venue offering panoramic views of the ocean, and when the timing is just right, one of the best sunsets on O‘ahu.
“We want people to enter and feel like they’re friends. I think the term ‘retail therapy’ is overused, but in so many ways I think that’s what we provide here,” says Isa Donle. “We give people an outlet to come and enjoy whatever that is, whether that’s a great meal or chatting with friends. Oftentimes we see them on the floor running into each other.”
Just like a good friend would, Neiman Marcus shows up for the local community. From Sept. 6-10, 10% of purchases, up to $10,000, will be donated to Hawai‘i Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund to aid wildfire relief efforts. And, as the holiday season nears, Neiman Marcus’s long-standing traditions will come alive, too. Beyond transforming the store into a winter wonderland, children from nonprofits such as HUGS, Make-AWish Hawai‘i, and Parents And Children Together are invited to a gift drive and morning with Santa.
“It’s something that the whole store team looks forward to doing,” Isa Donle says. “During the pandemic we couldn’t host the breakfast and our team was disappointed, so we looked for different ways to support the community. We held an internal gift drive for Pālolo Chinese Home and surprised the residents and families with a visit from Santa Claus with a gift on Christmas day. It was our way to continue our tradition that we couldn’t do in our restaurant.”
The store’s history of aloha dates back to its grand opening gala. Recent years included large-scale fund-raising events for Honolulu Museum of Art, Joyful Heart Foundation and Aloha United Way Women United. Come Nov. 11, residents can dress to the nines at a gala and fashion show that takes place in support of Bishop Museum, Hawai‘i Contemporary, Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra and Read to Me International Foundation. (See accompanying article for more information.)
“Neiman Marcus has always had a culture of giving back to the community,” says Isa Donle. “Long before Neiman Marcus Honolulu, it’s something that our founders believed in to support and give back to the communities in which we serve.”
Looking ahead, Neiman Marcus’s 25th anniversary is more than just a milestone — it’s a testament to the store’s internal excellence, commitment to the local community and a reminder that leading with love will never go out of style.
CELEBRATING WITH STYLE
Join Neiman Marcus to celebrate its 25th anniversary at the following events:
Check out CELEBRATE, an ikebana ~ oral exhibition Sept. 8-10. Sensei Linda Hamasaki, Joyce Tomonari and students will adorn the store with more than 30 arrangements in the style of Sogetsu Ikebana. Arrangements will be spread throughout the store as well as in Mariposa and designed with the exhibition theme in mind.
From Sept. 15 to 18, enjoy music by DJ Gem and DJ Ashloho as well as sweets by popular local treat makers daily including a special sherbet ~ avor by Asato Family Shop, created exclusively in celebration of the store’s 25th anniversary. Plus, shoppers can personalize purchases with complimentary embroidery by The Honolulu Social Club on qualifying items, and receive a special commemorative tote bag with a qualifying purchase.
Attend a charity dinner gala and fashion show on Nov. 11 that will bene˚ t four local organizations. Tables will go on sale in early September. For more information, contact brand experience manager Amy Tomita at 808-951-3406.