Monday, February 5, 2001
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Posted on: Monday, February 5, 2001

Islanders weigh in on bridging the shopping gap

Chain stores can find Hawai'i market too far a stretch for their business

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Assistant Features Editor

It is what we call in the business "a talker."

People’s choice in our straw poll

Here are the stores and restaurants Advertiser readers crave, in order of the number of votes each received; outlets had to receive a minimum of two votes to make the list.


• Target
• Crate & Barrel
• Bath & Body Works
• Victoria’s Secret
• Ikea (home furnishings)
• Pottery Barn
• Limited/Limited Express (apparel)
• Nordstrom’s
• Macy’s
• Bed Bath & Beyond
• Cost Plus World Market
• Mervyn’s
• J. Crew
• Hold Everything
• Ethan Allen (furniture)
• Lane Bryant (plus-size women’s apparel)
• Lerner’s (women’s apparel)
• FAO Schwartz (toys)
• Best Buy
• Burlington Coat Factory
• Bloomingdale’s
• Linens ’n Things
• Coldwater Creek (apparel)
• Land’s End
• Hancock’s/Jo-Ann’s Fabrics and Crafts
• Bliss Spa
• Sur La Table (housewares)
• Fox’s Electronics
• L.L. Bean
• Lillian Vernon (novelties)
• Lechter’s (housewares)
• Virgin Records
• Dilliards
• Babies R Us
• Papyrus (paper products)
• Michael’s (crafts)
• L’Occitaine

Restaurants and grocery stores:

• Olive Garden
• Trader Joe’s (gourmet groceries)
• In-N-Out Burger
• Krispy Kreme (doughnuts)
• Souplantation/Souper Salad/Fresh Choice (salad bars)
• Applebees
• Boston’s Market
• Black-Eyed Peas
• Chik-fil-A
• P.F. Chang’s Bistro
• Rainforest Cafe
• Chevy’s
• Dean & DeLuca (deli & gourmet food)
• El Torito
• El Pollo Loco
• Marie Callendar’s
• Red Robin
• Godfather’s Pizza
• Baja Fresh
• Ruby Tuesday
• Wolfgang Puck’s/Emeril’s
• Spago
• Pink’s hot dog stand
• Steak ’n Ale

When we asked readers which chain stores and restaurants they’d like to see in the Islands, the response was instantaneous. E-mails. Faxes. Letters. One local radio station liked the idea so much they stole it, and the calls flooded in.

This was one question, it seemed, that a whole lot of Islanders were just waiting to be asked.

At first, the list didn’t seem too dramatic.

Target? What, can’t find a Handy Bundler at Wal-Mart?

Applebee’s? C’mon, if you really need an Awesome Blossom, head over to Chili’s.

And what do we need a Dillard’s for, when there’s a perfectly good Liberty House, all freshly reorganized?

But then . . . ahhh . . . we looked closer.

The thought of a fully loaded double-double combo In-N-Out Burger. The memory of the sales associate at Nordstrom, ready to accept returns with a smile. The frontal assault of color at the Soup Plantation salad bar.

OK, we’re sold. Point us to the nearest towel-and-matching-shower-curtain selection at Bed Bath & Beyond, and we’ll suck up the backlash from the likes of Lynn Carey, who wrote:

"I prefer not to see another Mainland/international chain in Hawaii. I avoid Starbucks, Wal-Mart and the whole Waikele Shopping Center. I prefer to buy items made in Hawaii or at least support mom-and-pop stores. Please, not more generic clones! When I travel to foreign countries, I see the same stores with the same floor plans. Sometimes on the Mainland, the shopping malls have the same layouts and same tenants as Hawaii. Enough!"

Point taken.

Still . . .

Some who wrote in admitted they were recent transplants in need of a Red Robin or Rubio’s fish taco or Wienerschnitzel fix. Others were kamaaina tired of lugging home in their vacation bags the entire contents of their favorite Linens ’n Things store.

"Why didn’t someone ask this years ago?" asked Marcia Birch of Hawaii Kai. "When my husband and I moved to Hawaii from England in 1982, the shopping choices on Oahu were grim indeed. In the last 18 years, they’ve remarkably improved . . . but there are still big enough gaps to induce the need for shopping’ trips to the Mainland. I think practically everybody who leaves Hawaii carries an empty bag or suitcase to fill up on the return."

But, she points out, you can’t carry furniture, which is why she is lobbying for Ikea, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel. (Most of these places won’t ship larger items to Hawaii either, even if they have mail-order operations.)

Birch is not alone.

"I love Ikea," wrote Lucy Inouye. "Their furniture is sized perfectly for Hawaii, and the variety of items is incredible. They don’t do mail or phone orders (and won’t ship even if you buy it at a store). We always stop at the Carson store on our way to LAX, and have checked some pretty odd-shaped items onto United Airlines. I’d love to see them here."

She noted in a followup e-mail that "These retailers never believe we’ll come out of our grass shacks and shop, but it seems the ones who do always have their most successful stores ever.’ "

The store that got the most votes overall was Target (pronounced "Tar-jhay" by those in the know), the store seen in Gap-style national TV commercials. Think Wal-Mart, but hipper.

"Every Sunday, I look up for their weekly ad, make my list and send my son to the closest store to pick up what I need," wrote Malia Gurney via her Roadrunner account. "I get to see him at every college vacation. It’s like Christmas, and believe it or not, big savings."

Another big vote-getter was . . .

"Read my fax," wrote Kalina Chang of Kahaluu, then, in bold 48-point type: "Trader Joe’s."

The discount gourmet food shop had nearly as many votes as Target.

Quilters got together and requested a Hancock or Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts.

Deb Holzinger, who signed herself "Anxious to spend my money in Hawaii," listed 13 restaurants/retailers: "Save me airfare and postage! Please help get these retailers to our beautiful Island home."

In some cases, we have good news. You can find these requested restaurants/retailers right here in the Islands already: Abercrombie & Fitch (Ala Moana); Pier 1 (Kakaako); and if you’re really craving an International House of Pancakes, just hop on over to Maui.

You miss your hometown Dairy Queen? There are actually five places on Oahu where you can get a Dilly bar. A Carl’s Jr. can be found off Nimitz, though, no, they don’t have the stuffed potatoes there, as they do in Southern California. And Krispy Kreme doughnuts are coming soon (well, sometime in the next seven years) to a mall near you.

But do we really want to give up a plate lunch place for a Melting Pot, which reader Donna Stott describes as a "great fondue restaurant"? And will someone explain why Burlington Coat Factory got five votes?

Some readers had taken matters into their own hands.

"I wrote Trader Joe’s a letter in December requesting a store here, but they haven’t sent a reply yet," wrote Gina Carnazzo.

Carolyn Gronseth longs for the Souplantations of her California days, pre-1992.

"I missed them so much when I first came to Hawaii that I wrote and asked them if they would consider opening a franchise in Honolulu," she noted. "They wrote back and said they don’t have franchises and had no plans to open a restaurant in our Islands. . . . It’s been nine years. Maybe if you asked them, they might reconsider." (Sorry, no go.)

Others were even more particular. Miguel J. Del Toro not only wants Target and Best Buy stores, he wants them on his side of the Island (the east side).

And finally, we feel for you, Corlyn Olson Orr, we really do.

"I rarely participate in newspaper surveys, but this one really caught my attention," she wrote. "We just had a baby and probably won’t be traveling soon. . . . I’d love to see a Bath & Body Works, Crate & Barrel and a Pottery Barn. Definitely an Ikea, because then we’d have an affordable but modern furniture (store). Maybe an In-N-Out Burger, but maybe not, because then I’d gain an extra five pounds every month."

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