Tahloha Serape Ponchos, For people and pets

Michelle Okashima’s dog Virgil in a Tahloha poncho. | Courtesy Michelle Okashima

On an afternoon with the blazing sun shining down, Tahloha brand creator Eileen Allen and I are sitting at a picnic table in a pet-friendly enclosure at Hot Diggity Dog and Cat pet store in Kings Beach. A stout and happy dog named Virgil lays sprawled out under the picnic table where it’s a bit cooler. Just inside the pet store’s side entrance, a display shows off matching Mexican-style woven ponchos that fit both an owner and his or her pup or cat.

“[Tahloha serape poncho] is the perfect texture. Dogs can swim in them or, even when the sun goes down and they’re all wet, it keeps them nice and warm,”   –Eileen Allen

These serape ponchos from Allen’s Tahloha brand, which has been around since 2014, was spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic. She got the idea from time she spent in Mexico when most businesses were closed worldwide. Before the pandemic, Allen had been a hairdresser for about 20 years; she owned Shag Hair Studio in Truckee. Within the hair salon, she incorporated a boutique called Closet Cowgirl where she sold locally made jewelry, art and clothing. Many of the artists who sold their goods at her boutique went on to expand their own lines.

“The premise was to promote women and local artists,” Allen says.

She also travels a lot and sometimes picks up budding artists and featured creators in her time abroad. As an avid surfer and standup paddleboarder, she’s regularly giving SUP lessons, tours and yoga clinics. She was conducting a teacher training at a surf camp in Panama in February 2020 when the global lockdown occurred. She ended up coming home early and contracted Covid.

Eileen Allen and Boudicca. | Kayla Anderson

“I was sick as a bumkin,” she says.

With everything shut down, Allen couldn’t keep her business open. Fortunately, she had a friend in Rosarito, Mexico; she decided to go down there to wait out the pandemic.

“I walked down the main street of Rosarito every day and met all the local businessowners. Even though everything was closed, people would set up some of their goods outside and I got to know them,” she says.

Allen tried to rent a place in Rosarito last September, but the deal fell through, so she came back to Truckee. Like many others, her housing situation in the region became just as volatile; she ended up going back and forth between Truckee and Rosarito. She just recently found a permanent place to live.

Pepita swimming in her poncho at Waterman’s Landing in Carnelian Bay. | Courtesy Eileen Allen

In December 2020, with the help of her newly found Mexican manufacturers and embroiderers and designers in Truckee, she started producing woven serape ponchos with the Tahloha logo on them and brought them back to Tahoe.

Allen went from making adult ponchos to baby ones and found she couldn’t keep them in stock. Then one day, she put one on her dog Pepita and amazingly her peppy little pup didn’t mind.

“It’s the perfect texture. Dogs can swim in them or even when the sun goes down and they’re all wet, it keeps them nice and warm,” Allen says.

Soon after, she took a few of them to her friend and owner of Hot Diggity Dog and Cat, Michelle Okashima, and sold the majority of the Tahloha dog jackets/puppy ponchos within a week.

“The way they fit, dogs are happy in them,” Allen says.

Even Okashima’s cat Boudicca put one on and went inside and curled up in a dog bed with it.

Hot Diggity Dog & Cat was the first place in Tahoe to carry Tahloha dog ponchos.

“I’m excited about female-owned local businesses and investing in the Tahoe economy this way,” Okashima says.

But given their success Tahloha serapes are starting to branch out into other places. Scraps Dog Bakery in Tahoe City carries them and they’ll be in Mountain Hardware & Sports in Truckee starting in September.

Other Tahloha goodies such as clothing, bags, blankets and accessories are also sold at Adrift Tahoe and The Crown Motel & Family Resort in Kings Beach; West Shore Market, Tahoe City Visitor Information Center and Trunk Show in Tahoe City; PlumpJack Inn in Olympic Valley: Tahoe Sports Hub in Truckee and at all locations of Tahoe Dave’s.

“My motto is ‘Tahoe Grown, Aloha Inspired.’ I had an opportunity to pursue this, and I think between Tahloha and my standup paddleboarding business I can provide great, fun stuff for the community, as well as support small, locally owned businesses in the Truckee-Tahoe region,” Allen says. “We’re going to grow this together; Tahoe healthy living is my dream.”

Her website will go live in late August. | livetahloha.com