The Hula Hut marks 20 years in business


WITH winter officially almost upon us, many are frantically searching for parkas, scarves and various woolens. But at The Hula Hut, a swimwear shop in St. Mary’s Square, across from St. Vital Centre, the racks and shelves are burgeoning with apparel suited for alternate horizons, as the staff prepares to celebrate 20 years in business.

The Hula Hut is extending store hours as they enter their peak season, which runs from now through February. With snowbirds — and others who have waited all year to leave the cold of Winnipeg winters — heading out for warmer climes, new swimwear is often on the list of suitcase must-haves.

What began in 2003 as a kiosk in Grand Beach, transformed into a fully operational business in Winnipeg. Such was the demand that a second location was opened in 2020 in Gimli, initially as a pop-up, but so warmly welcomed by the community that it now has a permanent home in a space at the Lakeview Resort Hotel.

“The community there welcomed me with open arms. Everyone congratulated me for having opened the shop,” said owner Pat Lewyc about opening a second location in rural Manitoba despite the pandemic.

“It is truly amazing that we have come out of the pandemic, several swimwear stores did not, a chain located in the malls is now gone as they didn’t make it through the lock downs — we owe it to our loyal customers and warm welcome to the town of Gimli.”

The Hula Hut aims to empower women and carries swimsuits for women’s bodies of all sizes, from 0 to 24, and cup sizes all the way to G. Lewyc has been kept busy over the years, with serving a need for quality swimwear, private fittings and helping women feel their best in a range of swimsuits.

Lewyc had been a manager for a number of retail organizations and had hit a wall, no longer inspired by her work. But then, tapping into her longstanding appreciation of swimwear, The Hula Hut was born.

“There’s a massive selection of swimwear in the south, but I realized how deprived the Winnipeg market seemed to be. I was filling a need inside me.”

The Hula Hut started with stocking swimsuits, footwear, and beachwear, and now the shop offers year-round clothing for both men and women: hats, bags, jewelry and accessories, all geared towards days filled with fun in the sun.

“Since I was young, I always wondered why people could not just simply be more confident in swimwear,” said Lewyc. “Bodies, in all their shapes and sizes, are beautiful. Every body is unique and swimwear, chosen right, should leave a person inspired and feeling free. Helping people with this choice was the inspiration for The Hula Hut.”

Lewyc wants to help all clients find the right look for them, no matter what their personal style and level of confidence might be. “I’m all about empowering women. It’s quite fascinating, working in this industry for so long. We carry swimsuits for women’s bodies. We want you to feel great in your suit: that’s the end goal.”

Barbie Peters has been shopping at The Hula Hut since its first incarnation as ka iosk in Grand Beach.

“Pat’s very helpful. She has great selection and fashion, makes it fun and it’s affordable. I go every year before my winter trips and usually buy a few outfits from her.

“She’s a really great person, and what’s funny is she actually remembers the people that come to her store, and that’s kind of nice. I’ve seen people of all ages and all sizes shop there while I’m shopping. And she’s great with them. She keeps you updated with emails to let you know what’s coming in. I’ve overheard her offering to order things for people. She goes out of her way and it’s great to see a woman entrepreneur. She’s done very well for herself and I like to support her before I would buy online or support a big company in a mall.”

Jayne Franz has been shopping at The Hula Hut for years and appreciates the quality swim and travel wear but most importantly, the personalized service.

“Pat is amazing. She is always bringing in different and affordable pieces and accessories. It’s a one-stop shop. I feel very comfortable shopping there. Never rushed or pressured. I always find something I like. I even have my sisters-in-law shopping there and one is from Toronto and always wants to drop in when in Winnipeg or Gimli.”

“We have a huge range… We have stuff for the tweenie age and up, for husbands, men’s hats, sunglasses,” said Lewyc. “And lots of cottons and linens. What you see on the website is only one-10th of what we have.

“We’ve been around for so long, I’ve had customers when they were teenagers and years later they still come shopping at The Hula Hut.

“We always ask them about their trip, what’s happening. I love the winter travel season: clients have booked their trips; they come in and they’re excited. All of us here at the shop gain immense pleasure and satisfaction when we have found the perfect suit for a customer, it is what drives us.”

The Winnipeg shop will mark the 20th anniversary celebration of The Hula Hut on Tuesday, Dec. 5, from 5 to 8 p.m. with refreshments and door prizes. Everyone is welcome.