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Hilo Hattie’s closes Kona store

    Hilo Hattie's at Ala Moana Shopping Center

KAILUA-KONA » Hilo Hattie, one of Hawaii’s largest retailers of Hawaiian fashions and goods, closed its nearly 30-year-old Kailua-Kona store and plans to pursue a new direction — expanding and broadening cultural experiences.

The Kailua-Kona store, which opened April 1985 and closed Sunday, "was not as popular with visitors as (the) Hilo location," said Mark Storfer, Hilo Hattie’s chief operating officer.

"While it saddens Hilo Hattie to lose members on our team, we are working to transfer as many employees as we can to open positions at our remaining locations, and we’re working with the local community to find other opportunities for these highly experienced employees," he said.

The store’s five part-time and eight full-time employees were notified about the closure Jan. 9, he said.

The Kailua-Kona store wasn’t the only store affected, West Hawaii Today reported. Hilo Hattie also closed its Kihei, Maui, store this month. In a news release, the company stated "change is not without cost" and expressed "incredible gratitude to the employees of these stores, and to the communities and shoppers who have long supported them."

For Hilo Hattie, 2015 is not just a milestone year, but also a time of reflection on "its growth and evolution," the company said. It will introduce new plans throughout the coming weeks and months.

First up is revamping Hilo Hattie’s commitment to sharing local culture with its guests. Storfer said the company offers complimentary lei greetings, food tastings, live music, hula performances, lei making and cultural activities for free from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. daily at its flagship location on North Nimitz Highway in Honolulu.

He added, "We are working to add similar cultural activities for our neighbor island stores."

Hilo Hattie also stated it plans to develop "a much more hands-on, interactive, and immersive shopping experience that will bring new concepts and new products to its guests."

The first Hilo Hattie store opened 51 years ago on a small stretch of land between Lihue and Kapaa on Kauai and featured aloha shirts. With the recent closures, the company is now continuing with five stores operating in Hawaii.

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