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Foodland closing is ‘a done deal’

    Concerns over the closing of the Foodland at Koko Marina has the community asking what happened. The supermarket has been in Hawaii Kai for nearly 50 years. Walgreens plans to occupy the space.

The owner of Koko Marina Shopping Center said Walgreens moving into Foodland Super Market Inc.’s Hawaii Kai location is a done deal, despite community opposition that is expected to culminate at a town-hall meeting tonight.

After nearly five decades at Koko Marina, Foodland said last week it will close its Hawaii Kai store on July 10 to make way for a Walgreens because it had been unable to negotiate a new lease with center owner Koko Marina Holdings LLC.

"There is no negotiations — this is a done deal," said Abraham Keh, Koko Marina’s majority owner based in California. "Basically both parties had equal opportunity to make their best offers and to stay or not. (Walgreen Co.) had a more competitive offer."

Walgreen also agreed to make $3 million in improvements to the roughly 33,000-square-foot site, he said. Foodland said it had agreed to a similar deal to make those improvements over several years.

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen will occupy about half the space and sublease the remaining 15,000 square feet to another tenant, according to Tiffani Washington, a Walgreen spokes­woman.

"There had been an offer to sublease made to Foodland and they declined," she said.

Foodland denies it ever declined an offer and said it is interested in returning to the negotiating table with Walgreen.

"It is absolutely not true that Foodland declined Walgreen’s offer," said spokeswoman Sheryl Toda. "We had expressed an interest in subleasing a space from Walgreens after we had learned that they had already signed the lease with Koko Marina. We really hope that subleasing a smaller space from Walgreens is still a possibility as it is our strong desire to remain in Hawaii Kai."

Toda said the last the grocery chain heard from Walgreen was that it was "still exploring alternatives" for the space and would "be done with that analysis soon."

Nonetheless, Foodland patrons are hoping a deal to keep the grocer at Koko Marina can still be worked out. More than 2,300 signatures showing community support for Foodland had been solicited as of last Wednesday, according to Portlock resident Paige Altonn, who helped collect the signatures outside the Hawaii Kai store.

"It’s not our place to tell them who they can lease to; we understand this is a business, however, this has got far-reaching repercussions," she said. "We would like them to go back to the negotiating table. It is morally irresponsible of them to think (the nearby) Safeway can sustain this community."

Altonn said in addition to area residents, communities in Waimanalo and Niu Valley also depend on the state’s largest supermarket for fresh produce and food.

Costco is at the nearby Hawaii Kai Towne Center while Safeway is at Hawaii Kai Shopping Center, both inconvenient distances for many elderly residents who typically walk or catch the bus to Foodland, according to Altonn.

"It’s not whose name is on the door, it’s having the same access to food as we currently have, if not more," said Laura Buck, a Portlock resident. "We don’t mean to interfere with free enterprise. We’re simply trying to address the food-supply issue."

A town-hall meeting will be hosted by State Rep. Gene Ward and Sen. Sam Slom at Kaiser High School at 7 p.m.

"What we hope to gain by this meeting is a better understanding of what took place and why, and what, if anything, can be done to prevent Foodland’s abrupt departure," Ward said.

Executives of Foodland’s owner, Sullivan Family of Cos., and Sofos Realty, the center’s management company, have been invited to speak at the public meeting.

Foodland was Hawaii Kai’s first supermarket when it opened in 1963.

"The market dictates what is successful; it’s not just hearsay by a few residents," Keh said. "Everyone doesn’t like change, including myself."

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