Tom and Glenna Hudson are business owners in Kenai who provide peninsula residents with New Age products from all over the world. Their retail store, Happy Buddha Imports, sells everything from incense made in India to South African mango jam. The Clarion sat down with the Hudsons on Saturday to learn more about their business.
Clarion Reporter Brian Mazurek: So when did your store open?
Tom: We opened it last October, on the first of the month.
Mazurek: And what made you want to start your business and open up shop here?
Tom: So this would be our fourth store. We had three down in the Lower 48. I worked for the forest service putting out forest fires for 35 years and we had to move around a lot. Glenna loved retail, so it seemed like a good mix. We opened the first one in Missouri. We were there for seven years and did great with it. Transferred to Colorado, opened a store there, then opened another one. Eventually we sold them and moved up to Northern California for six years. During that time we bought a house here in Kenai as a retirement investment, and then from Northern California I got transferred to Chugach National Forest in Anchorage as fire staff. I retired in 2016, and we moved into our house in Kenai. Glenna did the Wednesday markets over in Soldotna and I would help her and we both got a lot of pleasure out of that. By the end of the season we still had quite a bit of product, and thought “what are we gonna do with this?” So we got the idea to have maybe a little pop-up holiday store and started going in that direction. Then we found this place and we both kinda knew that it would be more than just a holiday store. We get new customers every week and we’ve got plenty of regular customers. I think we’re providing a service for the community.
Mazurek: So what was the appeal for you in terms of doing this type of retail, selling exotic imports and such?
Tom: I think on the metaphysical side of it we both have a strong interest. You know, we’re all students. I think you’re always learning things and we can provide some answers for some folks that come in that have those kinds of questions. And I think if you look at the imports we have it would pretty much match what we have in our house.
Mazurek: So what kind of products do you offer?
Tom: We offer perfumes from India and a large selection of incense. We have the (incense) sticks and cones as well as the traditional powder and resin. We’ve got a new type, they call it “smokeless,” and I would say it’s 99 percent smoke-free. But it’s a great new product, you put it in a diffuser and a candle heats it up. It doesn’t light it on fire, but it’s just like the oil diffusers except it’s a little brick. We’ve tried at the house because we do a lot of research on our products before we bring them in. And these, boy they’re just great. Especially for folks that may be in a place where they don’t want much in the way of smoke there. We burn the nag champa in the store here to give people a sample of it. That and the Song of India, those are the two biggest sellers we have so we’ll give folks a sample of either of those when they come in. If it works for you, great! If it doesn’t, that’s okay too.
Mazurek: You mentioned that your first store was in Missouri, is that where you’re from originally?
Tom: No, we’re both Alaskans at heart. My second job in the forest service was down in Sitka. I got an opportunity to come up here on a temporary job, and that was it. It was always “someday we’ll go back to Kenai.” So like I said we had the opportunity to get a house 15 years ago, and it’s always been where we’d end up.
Mazurek: So what would you say are your most popular items?
Tom: We sell a lot of dragons, skulls, incense and candles. Oh, and a lot of sage.
Mazurek: And where are some of the places you import your products from?
Tom: So we get things from all around the world. South America, Indonesia, Australia. Normally we’ve got the long straight didgeridoos but we’ve also got some that are kind of shaped like a nautilus. They’re way cool. China, India, Nepal. We always try to get things from Nepal when we can. They had that earthquake there, and it’s a pretty poor country, so we try to help when we can. Africa, we import from there. I think that covers most of it.
Mazurek: How do you get in touch with these craftsmen from all over the world to buy their products? What’s the process for that?
Tom: There are a couple of different ways to do it. One is that we go to a lot of trade shows down in the Lower 48. There’s usually one in Seattle every winter, and then there’s a New Age trade show in Denver every year. You can always find something new there. We’ve also got contacts from our other stores that we’ve been doing business with for 20 plus years.
Mazurek: Any plans for expansion in the future?
Tom: I think we’re pretty happy the way it is. We’ve got Positive Vibes two doors down. She’s a great partner; we cross-promote with each other. We work with them, you know, and we have different folks that come in offering massage or other esoteric training. We don’t hold any classes here, but Kylie does over at her place so we help promote those. We’ve got a great bunch of neighbors here, couldn’t ask for anything better. If there’s an issue they’ll help us, we’ll help them, we all help each other.
Mazurek: So do you have a favorite item in the store?
Tom pauses to think for a moment before showing off an elaborately designed skull adorned in clown makeup.
Tom: Now this one is my favorite, not Glenna’s. I can’t help it, he is just so hideous. And people come in and they’re drawn to him.
Happy Buddha Imports is located at 610 Attla Way in Kenai, next to RD’s Barber Shop and behind the Wells Fargo. Their hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Their phone number is 907-740-3709.