Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
Maui boy Asa Ige has taken his love for art and a fondness for ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, and developed a successful flower design business on his home island. In the process, he has met such notable figures such as television personality Oprah Winfrey, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and even the man who became America’s 45th president, Donald J. Trump.
Ige owns and operates Asa Flowers in Wailuku. He began his business in New York City in the early 1980s, selling exotic tropical cut flowers at floral shop, Stamens & Pistils. For a time, he operated two shops: one in Midtown Manhattan and another in Greenwich Village.
A 1974 graduate of Wailuku’s Baldwin High School, Ige made the big leap to the Big Apple in his early 20’s to study design, not flower arranging, at the prestigious Parsons School of Design. He was later asked to teach advanced flower arrangement at Parsons, however.
When Ige arrived in the Big Apple, he was already armed with a bachelor of fine arts degree in design from the University of Hawai‘i at Mänoa. He also worked for a time as a graphic designer in the highly competitive New York landscape.
He laughs as he recalls how graphic design was done in the 1980s. “It was all cut and paste. All very tedious work.” And, it was all done with X-Acto knives and paper — not computers, he said.
At a company party for which a Hawaiian theme had been selected, Ige was assigned to handle the floral decorations — after all, he was from the Aloha State.
He scoured the flower shops of New York City, but couldn’t find anything that said “HAWAI‘I.”
“They had no idea what I was talking about,” he said of the shops he checked out.
That’s when the light bulb clicked on in his head: He would open a retail shop specializing in tropical flowers.
Ige flew back to Hawai‘i and immediately began making the rounds of local growers and suppliers, statewide, who could supply his needs on the Mainland. He even got his parents, Edwin Sr. and Elsie, to help him. Every week, his parents, both of whom have since passed on, along with friends, would pack a box of Hawaiian blossoms and air ship them to him in New York City. His father was a successful Maui businessman and the owner of E.T. Ige Construction. Asa Ige is grateful to his father for supporting him emotionally and financially during his endeavor in New York.
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