Saturday, November 28, 2015         

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Customers bid adieu to local supermarket

The Foodland store in Hawaii Kai closes so its space can be a Walgreens location

By Dan Nakaso


Myrtle Ching-Rappa wept Sunday as she bought her last $62.59 worth of groceries at the Hawaii Kai Foodland, and Bella Yamamoto mourned for the passing of the family-owned grocery store that represented one of the reasons she moved to Hawaii Kai.

"I had to see it myself," Yamamoto said as she pushed her nearly empty cart through aisles of nearly empty shelves. "A grocery store is an integral part of our community, and this store was one of the selling points of my house."

Longtime shoppers said they'll miss the employees' friendly service, Foodland's poke and the convenience of having a familiar community fixture so close to home.

Ching-Rappa shopped at the Hawaii Kai Foodland for 30 years and could not believe that Hawaii Kai's first supermarket was really closing Sunday after 48 years of business.

"This is my store," she said between tears and hugs with her neighbor and fellow longtime shopper Karen Hong. "It's so sad that it's so empty."

Despite community opposition, Walgreens will take over Foodland's 33,000-square-foot spot in the Koko Marina Shopping Center and open its 12th island store early next year, sharing the space with an undisclosed tenant.

All of the Hawaii Kai Foodland's 54 employees have been offered positions at other Foodland stores, said Maxine Parker, Foodland's district manager and director of risk management.

On Sunday, employees wore lei over black T-shirts and threw a party after the store's unusual 6 p.m. — and final — closing time.

Foodland offered deep discounts Sunday on nearly everything that remained in the store — especially the few remaining perishables that could not be shipped to other Foodland stores.

"I came in because they were selling watermelon at 19 cents a pound," said Mike Randall, who snapped up the last two slices, the only two items in his shopping cart. "I guess I came in too late because there's nothing left. Does anybody ever want to see a store go under? It's never a good thing."

Hawaii Kai is now left with a nearby Safeway and Costco — and there's still a Foodland store in Aina Haina.

But the loss of the Hawaii Kai Foodland hit many shoppers harder than they imagined and touched off searing resentment for Walgreens.

"I won't shop at Walgreens," Hong said. "We know the kids in the neighborhood that work here. Unlike Walgreens, Foodland is one of the few family-owned stores still left."

The merchandise that was left represented considerable savings Sunday for Stacey Bow and her daughter, Arianna, 9.

Squash was selling for 99 cents a pound, compared with the normal $3 or $4. Butter was half off.

But the Bows really went to the store Sunday for one last goodbye.

The Hawaii Kai Foodland, Bow said, was staffed by employees who went the extra mile for their customers — like last week.

A year ago Bow lost her keys containing her Foodland Maika‘i Card at the Hawaii Kai dog park and figured they were gone — until she got called last week by an employee at the Hawaii Kai Foodland.

Someone had seen the card and turned the keys in to the store, where an employee swiped Bow's Maika‘i Card and figured out they belonged to her.

"We really like the people who work here," Bow said. "So we came to wish them well and to hug everybody."

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