Sunday, November 29, 2015         

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East Oahuans protest loss of grocery store

By Rob Shikina


Some 300 East Oahu residents expressed anger over the upcoming closure of Foodland after the grocery store lost its lease to Walgreens at Koko Marina Center in Hawaii Kai.

They showed up Tuesday at a town hall meeting organized by state Rep. Gene Ward and state Sen. Sam Slom at Kaiser High School to hear the community's concerns and pass them on to shopping center officials.

Foodland Chairwoman and CEO Jenai Wall attended the meeting to thank the community for its support over the years.

"We also want to let them know that we worked diligently over the last several years to renegotiate our lease in hopes of remaining in Hawaii Kai," she said before the meeting. "The Hawaii Kai community is very important to us, and we're continuing to work towards securing a sublease with Walgreens."

Some people raised the spectre of a boycott to send a message to the shopping center landlord, California-based Koko Marina Holdings LLC, or Walgreens. Others objected to boycotting the other businesses at the center.

"The thing that screams out to me is not who is speaking, but who is not," said Robert Frija, noting Walgreens and the management of the center were not present. "There's not a sense that they're really listening or that they really care."

He continued, "We will not shop at Walgreens, not ever. We do not intend to shop there. They need to hear that loud and clear."

Hawaii Kai resident Sue Sakai said with the closing of Foodland on July 10, the closest large supermarket will be Safeway near Costco, the Foodland in Aina Haina and other markets in Kailua.

"Hawaii Kai is becoming a food desert," she said. "I don't think Safeway has the capacity." She added that she's driven away from the Safeway on the weekends because there's no room.

She suggested that the loss of Foodland at Koko Marina also will hurt the other businesses where people stop while doing their grocery shopping.

Sandra Talavera said she was impressed with the turnout and the speakers.

"I needed to see what my community felt about Foodland, if they felt the same way as I did," she said. "What I really like (is) the community stepping forward and expressing their views and getting together to do that."

She said she liked Foodland's support of the local community, such as its Shop for Education school fundraising program and matching donations. "I would like them to renegotiate a good lease and have Foodland stay," she said.

Slom said he will meet with Koko Marina representatives to share the residents' comments. "We will take every word back to the Walgreens people and Koko Marina," he told the crowd. "It's not over. We need our daily bread."

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