Molokaʻi Auto Parts Keeps the Friendly Isle on the Move


Like most families in Hawaiʻi, Lani and Duane Ozaki work tirelessly to meet the high cost of living and plan for the future of their children. It’s especially hard on Molokaʻi, where essentials for everyday living typically cost more.

But the Ozaki couple takes it all in stride, seeming to effortlessly hold full-time jobs in addition to running Molokaʻi Auto Parts, a thriving, diversified store in the charming, old-Hawaiʻi town of Kaunakakai where time — and the ills of modernization — have graciously forgotten. Thanks to their hard work, commitment to caring for the community, and a loan from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund, the business is thriving and providing a steady revenue stream for their family.

Lani is a co-lessee of Department of Hawaiian Home Lands property in Ho ʻolehua, near the Molokaʻi Airport, which was passed on from her grandmother, but the Ozakis take nothing for granted. Duane is a licensed auto mechanic who teaches at the Kamehameha Schools Kapālama campus on Oʻahu during the weekdays and returns to Molokaʻi on weekends to tend to the business. Lani works as a health coordinator with ʻOhana Health Plan, part of Centene, one of the largest managed care plans in the nation, making home visits to ensure vulnerable Molokaʻi residents have access to home health services.

Seeing a Need

Although everyone on the island works together, in 2019 Duane saw a need to provide the approximately 7,000 Molokaʻi residents with more options to obtain auto parts. He approached Carquest Pacific to request support to open an independently owned and operated store. Carquest has stores across the United States and previously had a store on Molokaʻi. Carquest Pacific saw the great potential for the island. They had full faith in the Ozakis.

“At first, I had reservations about starting this new venture,” Lani recalled. “I had questions about our ability to meet expenses. Duane is the risk-taker!”

It turned out to be the right move.

“Our business has allowed us to meet amazing people, like those at Carquest,” she said, “and today, if we need a part right away, we can also order it from the Carquest on Nimitz Highway on Oʻahu and it will arrive via UPS the next day, or by barge the following Monday.”

The business got off to a great start, but the pandemic occurred, and businesses were in a lock-down mode that caused sales to drop significantly. Fortunately, Molokaʻi Auto Parts had developed its website with online ordering capabilities. Customers were able to place orders online and although businesses had to close their doors, the Ozakis could text or call customers when their orders were ready for pick up. This helped to mitigate the impact of the decline in sales.

Diversifying Product Lines

The pandemic showed the importance of diversifying their product offerings beyond car parts. Molokaʻi Auto Parts also sells high-quality lawn and garden equipment as a Golden Eagle dealer. They offer products from reputable brands such as Echo, Shindaiwa, Bear Cat and Billy Goat. Generators, chain saws, pressure washers, blowers and trimmers are sold at the store. Larger equipment like chippers, chipper/shredders, aerators, and lawn vacuums can be ordered.

During the pandemic, Molokaʻi Auto Parts added another line of business and became a MOBI authorized partner. This allows the store to activate cellular devices with low-cost cellular plans that start at under $10. MOBI utilizes the Verizon platform to ensure customers have great cellular reception. Cellular devices are also sold at Molokaʻi Auto Parts.

After the pandemic, the world experienced supply chain challenges and Molokaʻi Auto Parts was no different. There was limited merchandise to sell.

A Flourishing Business

Today, however, things are looking up. The loan from OHA helped Molokaʻi Auto Parts to consolidate expenses at an “amazing rate” and this has improved cash flow for the business.

Molokaʻi Auto Parts now has over 200 business accounts and the Ozakis continue to be grateful for the support of customers and businesses in the community.

Customers can place orders online, but Lani says those on Molokaʻi still prefer to come in person to pick up their merchandise because they like the face-to-face interaction and enjoy “talking story.”

The store has three employees, and an independent contractor who does the marketing, website, and social media for the business. The contractor is their daughter Tehya, who graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi-West Oʻahu and now works as an accountant in Nebraska.

The Ozakis’ two sons Hāloa, 13, and Kauluokalā, 8, also help with the business, and although every waking moment is accounted for, they make time for their sons’ sports games and spend time together as a family at the beach.

Lani says her family will continue to work hard, holding to the values that were taught to her – kuleana, the desire to take their responsibilities seriously and ensure they do what they say they will do; and mālama – the need to take care of the people who take care of them.

“Without the people here, we would not be able to make this work,” Lani said.

Background on Lani Ozaki

Lani was born and raised on Molokaʻi and received her undergraduate degree in psychology and master’s degree in counseling psychology, both from Chaminade University of Honolulu. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Lani met Duane when she was in college, working at Duane’s father’s auto shop in Kalihi. Lani worked for Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust for nine years before joining ʻOhana Health Plan. And the rest is history.

Nathan Hokama, APR, is the principal of Strategic Communication Solutions, LLC, which has provided communications consulting for Hawaiʻi businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations since 2004. He previously served as corporate communications manager for Tesoro Hawaiʻi (now Par Hawaiʻi) and American Savings Bank, a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries.