Having to move the shop was a scary thing.
Paradise Optical was one of the original tenants when Pearlridge Center opened in the 1970s. The eyeglass shop was a family-owned business with longtime employees and customers it had been serving for years.
A year and a half ago, economic pressures forced it to find a new location. "Closing in Pearlridge was a nervous time," said 30-year employee Pattie Miyashiro. "We worried, ‘Are we going to survive?’"
Paradise Optical, founded by Richard Choy and taken over by sons Chris and Darrell Choy, landed in Waimalu Plaza in a storefront that used to house chicken-fight-themed merchandise. There’s a City Mill and a Safeway across the lot, Shiroma’s Wine next door and the daily lunch rush of construction workers going to eat at Grace’s. Employees worried whether old customers would find them.
In the months of uncertainty, Miyashiro said, longtime customers came in to show their support. "All the aunties came to get new glasses, whether they needed them or not. Everybody is struggling, but they said, ‘Gotta help. Gotta do what we can.’" Customers would stand at the cash register and insist on paying full price. "No need discount," they would say.
"When we left the mall, it was time to reinvent and better ourselves," Miyashiro said.
That meant bringing in new lines of glasses. The daughter of one of the owners suggested the hip brand Juicy. A nephew suggested Oakley. "Those brands were such a shot in the arm for us," Miyashiro said.
One of the freedoms of their new location is that they can do tent events on the weekend. They’ve already had a couple of weekend celebrations, and are planning one for next month with their neighbor Shiroma’s Wine and More. Oakley brand has a line of sunglasses that supports Talk About Curing Autism (TACA), a national nonprofit group that provides services for families dealing with autism. Taking the cue from Oakley, Paradise Optical is sponsoring a Stew Cook-Off on Nov. 7 from 2 to 6 p.m. Proceeds from the event go to support TACA in Hawaii.
At first the idea was for a chili cook-off, but then someone from the Honolulu Police Waimalu substation suggested stew. Chili cook-offs are common, but "everybody thinks their auntie makes the best stew," Miyashiro said.
The entry fee is $20. Contestants will be limited to the first 25 entries. The entry deadline is Nov. 1. All entry fee proceeds will be donated to TACA. Grand prize is an Oakley watch valued at $500. Other prizes include sunglasses and gift baskets from Waimalu Plaza businesses. To enter, call Jill at 487-7926 or firstname.lastname@example.org
"We wanted a way to give back," Miyashiro said. "We’re just so grateful to people for finding us."