Seattle’s Hawaii General Store (hawaiigeneralstore.net) is a little piece of the tropics on 45th Street in Wallingford, importing leis fashioned in Hawaii for 18 years. Turns out there’s a lot to know about the fragrant festive wear. Here are seven things we learned:
1) The Hawaiian-grown and Hawaiian-made leis are packed in boxes and flown to HGS via Hawaiian Airlines.
2) Yes, men can and should embrace the floral neckwear. They were originally created for chiefs.
3) Perishable flower leis are newer than the ancient ones made from seeds or leaves.
4) The maile, which is draped over the neck but doesn’t form a full loop, was once reserved for royalty. HGS sells several versions.
5) Leis are boxed up with gel packs to preserve freshness, and they’ll last a week in the fridge; buy them Thursdays for peak bloom.
6) Pandanus tree leis and Kauai’s signature mokihana lei aren’t allowed off the islands, due to agricultural control, while gardenia leis have to come from California. Hawaii’s physical isolation means it has a unique mix of bugs and pests.
7) When worn, leis tend to last a day or two, “depending on the number of hugs” the wearer gets, reports HGS manager Kī’apu Wolfe.