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Kailua laments the final day of Don Quijote

Gordon Y.K. Pang
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Above, Maunawili resident Ken Sitch, left, his daughter Moani Sitch, and Ken’s Kailua High School classmate Lionel Shirasu reminisced yesterday about the Don Quijote store, which formerly had been Daiei and Holiday Mart. Yesterday was the store’s last day. The property will be the site of a Target store.
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The department store closed its doors last night, making way for a new Target store.
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Herb the dog sat in a Don Quijote cart as Keolu Hills resident Pat Dilliner, a friend of Herb’s owner, talked about the store, where she once saw Elvis Presley.

Kailua residents yesterday said goodbye to a family friend and lamented the loss of an era when their town was simpler and slower.

The Don Quijote department store’s Kailua branch closed its doors for the final time last night, making way for a new Target store scheduled to open in July 2012.

A vocal segment of the Kailua community had raised strong objections to the big-box store’s impending arrival. Last week, Target closed a deal to purchase the Hahani Street property from Kaneohe Ranch.

Yesterday’s shoppers were more focused on the departure of a store that many felt had a small-neighborhood charm, despite having changed ownership and names several times. It is now owned by a Japanese department-store chain.

Maunawili resident Ken Sitch, 60, and his daughter Moani, 34, brought ti leaf lei in a show of appreciation for several of the clerks who have served them over the years.

Sitch said he had been shopping at the store for more than three decades and estimates that clerks "Doris, Tammy and Linda" have each worked there at least 20 years.

"I love the employees. They’re wonderful, loving people," he said. "They took such great care of us."

Sitch said he will also miss the selection of Asian and local foods, including "stuff like chung choi," a type of pickled cabbage.

As for the arrival of a Target, Sitch said it’s another step away from the Kailua of yesteryear.

"It’s very touristy," he said. "Kailua’s changed a lot. It’s become more like the mainland or Waikiki."

Keolu Hills resident Pat Dilliner, 71, agreed.

"You can see what’s happening to Kailua," she said. "It’s becoming like another Waikiki, almost. But I guess if you have the money, you can do as you please."

Dilliner said she won’t forget shopping at the then-Holiday Mart store in the 1970s when she turned her head and saw Elvis Presley, decked out completely in black, shopping with an entourage in tow in the music section.

He waved, but people were too polite to approach the superstar for a picture or autograph, she said.

"Everybody just stopped and watched him," she recalled.

Dilliner said she will also miss buying Asian gift items that can’t be found elsewhere at reasonable prices, such as black lacquer bowls and bamboo products.

Pohakupu resident Keith Fujikawa, 41, said he has lived in Kailua all his life and has been going to what was once Holiday Mart, and then Daiei, and then Don Quijote nearly as long.

"There are a lot of things we really enjoy you don’t find anywhere else," he said.

Fujikawa said he and his wife, Lisa, have been to Target at Salt Lake and expect to go to the Kailua Target once the Don Quijote is converted.

But Illinois native Lisa Fujikawa, 42, said, "It won’t have the same community feel."

Don Quijote officials declined comment. They also asked reporters to stay out of the store and to not interview employees.

Arnold Aguilar, 48, a nurse at Castle Medical Center, had bought his lunch at Don Quijote nearly five days a week.

"I like their warm food," he said of their saba and salmon bentos in particular.

About 120 people worked at the store. An undisclosed number of them will be working at one of Don Quijote’s three other Oahu locations.

Others have chosen to retire and some are being laid off.

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