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Project at Molokai Ranch comes full circle

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When Tropical J’s was at a financial crossroads in 1997 and co-owner Gary Barnes needed a sizable project to keep the company afloat, Molokai Ranch asked him to redesign its “tentalows”—canvas-covered frames—to house its guests. One ranch owner on Molokai—an island situated between the heavily touristed islands of Oahu and Maui—was repurposing the ranch into an eco-tourism destination.

“The frames were rickety and the fabric was flappy in the high-wind environment,” Barnes says. “Guests were complaining that the noise was keeping them up at night.”

Barnes worked with Eide Industries to design and manufacture the frames, and Tropical J’s designed and manufactured the tensioned fabric. Molokai Ranch ordered 250 tents, which was just the type of order Tropical J’s needed.

Molokai Ranch closed in 2008, but some of the tents are now looking at new life. “A nun acquired a tract of land from the Bank of Hawaii and we’ve moved 14 tents to the property to refurbish as accommodations for the homeless,” Barnes says. “That project saved us. Now we’re able to turn around and use it to give back.”

Sigrid Tornquist is a freelance author and editor based in St. Paul, Minn. She is also the associate editor of InTents magazine, a publication of the Industrial Fabrics Association International.

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