Melelani Jones misses the hugs.
“I tell my clients to stay inside — don’t come out and say hello,” she said. “We are taking safety very seriously.”
Jones owns Kokua Diaper, a cloth diaper delivery and laundry service she and her husband, L.a., started in April 2019. The only one of its kind on Maui, the business runs like a well-oiled machine: On Mondays and Tuesdays the Joneses drop off a week’s supply of diapers to clients and pick up the dirty ones. Laundering takes place Wednesdays and Thursdays.
But the couple’s weekly routine is a little different now.
Safety has always been a top priority for the Joneses, who follow a strict laundry protocol to ensure diapers are clean and sanitized. In response to COVID-19, they’ve taken additional steps to protect themselves and their clients. Now, on delivery days, instead of a hug or handshake, clients greet them from afar through a screened door or window. In addition to maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet from others, the Joneses wear masks and gloves, disinfect everything they touch and shower and wash their clothes as soon as they arrive home.
Kokua Diaper’s client roster has grown over the past few weeks as more Maui residents have been sticking close to home. Jones says the service eases the stress of parents who don’t want to venture out amid the pandemic. A trip to the store can be anxiety-inducing, she said, “especially when you have a baby at home.”
Like Jones, Mary Ann Neff misses face-to-face interactions with her regular customers. Since 2015 Neff has been a driver for Hopper Maui, a family-owned and locally operated restaurant delivery service in South and Central Maui. Three nights a week she’s on the road picking up dinner orders from participating restaurants and delivering them to customers’ doorsteps.
Now when she’s on the clock, Neff wears a face mask, keeps a box of latex gloves on her passenger seat and wipes down every item or surface she touches.
Deliveries are contact-free. Neff sends a text message to her customers when she’s en route and another when the order has been dropped off. She is taking the changes in stride and says she’s grateful for the opportunity to work and to help sheltering-in- place residents — many of whom are longtime customers — retain a sense of normalcy.
Neff has seen an uptick in business over the past few weeks, along with gratuities and other gestures of appreciation. On several occasions after leaving an order on an unseen customer’s doorstep, a voice has called out to her as she starts to walk away.
“They’ll say, ‘Thank you so much for working,’” she said. “It feels good every time I hear it.”
Business is also booming for Island Fresh Delivery, a Kahului-headquartered company that delivers boxes of locally grown produce and products to nearly every part of Maui as well as Lanai. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the company was averaging 100 deliveries per week. Since then the weekly average has shot up to more than 400.
Drivers have adapted to the new normal by wearing protective masks, washing their hands at every opportunity and maintaining a distance of 10 feet from others, explained Island Fresh Delivery Manager Cameron Leising. Meeting the sudden increase in demand was no small feat, but Leising says a passion for achieving locally grown food security is what keeps the company going, along with an outpouring of appreciation.
“As if the surreal state of society is not overwhelming enough, our intensive labor hours packing custom orders, long days and delivering would not be possible without the sincere and genuine appreciation and gratitude from our customers,” he said.
The same goes for Stacey Guinan, owner of Stacey’s Garden, a local food company whose vinaigrettes and hummus, pesto and tapioca products are sold in stores islandwide. When she and her husband, Josh, launched the business in 2017, they never anticipated making home deliveries. But that changed in March when Hawaii’s stay-at-home order was enacted.
Realizing the impending impacts of the shutdown, Guinan quickly built a website from scratch to offer a twice-weekly home delivery option, and orders poured in right away. To diversify the menu, she teamed up with several other local food producers and is now delivering their products, too.
Before and after each delivery, everything — food packaging, coolers, cellphones, car keys — is disinfected. Social distancing is observed, masks and gloves are worn and sanitizing wipes are always within arm’s reach. Guinan, who works out of a commercial kitchen in Kahului, also wears a mask and gloves when she’s making her products.
She says the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “Our customers are excited and grateful for the service,” she said. “We will continue to do the deliveries as long as people want them.”