History of The Collective

"Many things...all at once."

A Hand Injury

In December 2017, we boarded a military airlift plane in Charleston, SC headed to Oahu. We had been traveling for three months with our two 5-year-olds, and were headed home at last. That is until one of the Air Force crew injured their hand sufficiently to cancel the flight. It was no small task to de-plane and offload our kids and cargo. With no future flight in-hand, we rented a car and headed up to see friend and tattoo artist Alex Gama and family near Asheville, NC.

We were encouraged to visit the arts district in the west side of Asheville, where we encountered an amazing building by the train tracks full of artisans. Potters, metal workers, painters, you name it -- it was there. A whole neighborhood of art -- Asheville's River Arts District is just what the acronym implies: "RAD"!


Starting a Small Business

A year later, when the opportunity to open a tattoo shop in Kailua presented itself to Lisa, she tirelessly searched for spaces, and came upon the site of "A Cup of Tea" -- which was a Victorian tea shop for nearly 20 years. With 1400 square feet, the space could not become the three-floor multiplex we saw in West Asheville, but she wanted The Collective to capture artfulness in multiple disciplines -- to be "many things, all at once."

The core business was tattoo; the existing kitchen space enabled a cafe; and the desire to showcase artwork was the gallery. Lisa did the work to build the business, and on January 1, 2019, we took over the keys to Suite 101 of the 407 Uluniu Street Medical Arts Building -- The Collective *Tattoo * Cafe * Gallery was launched.

But it was very, very pink.

Thirty Days Of Fury

We had a lot of help to transition the space from a dainty, doily-laden tea house into a Victorian-Gothic-themed tattoo shop and cafe. The landlords gave plenty of help with exterior issues including taking out the Olde English shrubbery, enhancing the sidewalk and enabling mural art. LOTS of facebook marketplace and craigslist action. LOTS of painting. Furniture buying, furniture building, furniture selling. Added a platform stage -- just in case! Holiday tea sets and plates forever. In the end, we received our business license and Health Department license on January 30th and we opened up! The original artists were just three, occupying the five stations we had acquired: Lisa Fillmore, Alex Gama, and Carly Pate were the plankowner tattoo artists of The Collective.


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Standup Comedy -- Birdbath Show

Longtime friend Rey Payumo saw our space during transition month and shared an idea that we could host standup comedy. He referred us to his fellow USPS colleague and standup comedian Reese Paul. We met, and Reese put together a trial show on January 19th, before we were tattooing or serving food! Reese became the show's host and producer, while Brett ran the venue side of things (mostly turning the cafe into a theater on show nights). The first bunch of shows were poorly-lit, lightly-attended, but -- aided by a BYOB policy -- they were really fun!

The overwhelming majority of feedback was basically "Wow, I can ride my bike or walk to a show in Kailua -- this is GREAT!" Reese titled his new comedy production "Birdbath Show" and between January 2019 and March 2020 and you-know-what, we ran 21 comedy nights in all. It was a grand time, and a great way to help a new tattoo shop gain notoriety in the community. Reese continues to share too-personal insights about himself onstage at comedy shows in Honolulu and elsewhere (@reesekpaul)(Rated R).

People ask when we're bringing back comedy shows. But the platform stage is no longer with us, the stage is gone, and we had to focus on the core business--but you can still find a vibrant Oahu comedy scene.

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Dolce Cabaret

A few weeks after we opened the business, we were approached about hosting a sort of variety show and dinner theater event in the cafe space. At the time, we had the platform stage, and furniture, and had hosted 2 or 3 of the early comedy night events, but it was certainly a stretch to think we could host a full-on dinner and a full-on show. We agreed, however, and had the good sense to step aside, letting the professionals take over.

Suddenly a perfectly-measured and customized stage apparatus was erected over the platform, a menu was created, promotional efforts commenced, and tickets were sold. Within a few days of agreeing to host the event, the Dolce Cabaret was sold out, and a small new cafe and tattoo shop was actually hosting a musical and culinary circus. With extensive credit to Miss Stella Rose and friends, The Dolce Cabaret was held on March 30th, 2019 — and it was simply unforgettable.

For our staff, the performers, and the 30+ fortunate guests, it was a night filled with incredible musical numbers, delicious cuisine, poetry and theater art. It is difficult to come up with words to describe the amount of preparation, planning, teamwork, and talent that the Dolce Cabaret crew delivered. We only wished we had another 50 seats! The Dolce Cabaret earned a unique place not only in our history, but in the memoirs of Kailua as well.

Miss Nadia

Kids Art with Miss Nadia has been a consistently super way for us to promote our vision in the community. Children coming to our tattoo shop to have a happy hour doing a make-and-take craft project -- that's right where we want to be. Saturday mornings are the perfect time for parents to enjoy a latte while their offspring use scissors and glitter pens and glue and paint and egg cartons to make some incredible creation. Kids Art with Miss Nadia has been on our calendar for over 4 years. You can find the link to her class here -- we are extremely grateful for Nadia and her steadfast support of The Collective!!

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Live Music at The Mural

October of 2020 was filled with frustration for small business owners. What were the rules? What to believe? We were limited to what we could do inside the space, so the idea of hosting music outside on the lanai seemed like a friendly thing to do. Our incredible manager Duncan Morgan found the duo "FLOHI" (@flohimusic) and helped to book them for October 25, 2020. Back then, there were rules about being 10 feet from the exhaust of a trumpet, for example -- but these applied to live music at farmers markets ... which we were not. So we jammed.

And we reached out to Dominic Carlos, and we found out about Kapu, and along came Jenuine Leigh, and Megan Aho & Friends, and Trishnalei, and Matt Krahula, and Rebecca James, and for three years of Sundays and a few Saturdays, we jammed some more. The Collective was one of the very few places musicians could get gigs at all, but before long the music scene returned. We loved seeing the friendships formed among musicians at our space. Some day we'll bring back the music, but it has been wonderful to see the music careers of the artists from The Collective's sidewalk sessions flourish!