HOW OUR BUSINESS STARTED...
Peter Fithian might not have been cast for the part, but the blond, blue-eyed Bostonian has become Hawaii's consummate greeter. Greeters of Hawaii was the first to package for a price the local tradition of welcoming visitors with smiles, leis, and kisses. Our business is catering to those unable to meet arriving guests in person ...and we've been at it for over forty years.
It all started when Peter fell in love with Hawai`i as a midshipman in 1948 and worked his way back here in 1955 as the manager of the Kona Inn. He stumbled into the current business two years later while assistant manager at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Hotel. Part of his job was to ensure that all guests were greeted at the airport with a lei, a kiss, and the business card of his boss, Henry J. Kaiser. He squeezed his greeting duties in before and after work, getting up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the morning arrivals and then heading out to the airport after work for for the evening rush.
The long hours eventually got to him. The entrepreneur in him suggested that he try striking out on his own and offering the service to anyone who couldn't meet guests at the airport. "I saw a chance to develop a new business, fill a growing need, and have some fun along the way," Peter says. "It was a matter of integrating the schedules of the three major airlines serving Hawai`i in those days, hiring some college kids to help me part time, and then going after the business.
Before long he had a dozen of hotels signed up for the service, and tour operators soon joined them. In time, the tour operators began taking on the fun themselves, and the swelling number of visitors each year eventually made it impossible for hotels to afford individual greetings. So Greeters of Hawaii's clientele shifted toward travel agents and individuals seeking to extend a personal welcome to their clients traveling to Hawai`i.
Greeting newcomers to Hawai`i with a lei and a kiss seems to have started sometime around World War II. A U.S.O. entertainer was dared by her fellow musicians to kiss a homely officer sitting in the audience. She was hesitant to kiss him outright, so she presented him her leis with a kiss and announced to the crowd that this was a Hawaiian custom.
"The first minutes in Hawai`i can be magical if the greeting is properly handled," Peter adds. "A lei expresses friendship and warmth and the aloha spirit in a way nothing else could."
As competition multiplied, Greeters of Hawaii extended its reach well beyond the airport greetings. Diversifying into farming, retailing and mail order gifts, Greeters of Hawaii now has about 15 acres of nursery farmland. Since the early seventies Greeters of Hawaii has operated retail flower shops on the islands of Hawai`i, Maui, Kaua`i, and O`ahu. It employs a staff of over seventy employees.