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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Longtime Hau'ula food store closing

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward Bureau

HAU'ULA — A dwindling customer base and increased competition from discount stores have forced Lindy's Foods in Hau'ula Kai shopping center to close after 37 years.

For years, Lindy's was the only full-service market in this town of about 3,500 people between La'ie and Punalu'u. The owners were always willing to donate goods to community functions and were also known to help low-income families who couldn't afford to pay by allowing them to run a tab.

But mom-and-pop stores have struggled as the options for shoppers have burgeoned.

"The big factor for us as far as competition has been the Costcos and Sam's (Club)," said Tyler Ching, who, along with his wife, Georgette, took over the business from his father, Lindberg, in 1994.

Lindy's closed last week.

"It's hard to fathom how we can stay in business when the cheapest for us to get it is at Costco where the general public goes anyway," said Tyler Ching. "And we understand. We cannot blame them. They have to stretch their food dollars."

Georgette Ching said the timing was right because their lease had ended and the store has struggled for several years.

"People's shopping habits changed after H-3 opened," she said. "The whole community leaves for the weekend and goes to Waikele, Kapolei, Wal-Mart, Sam's and Costco."

About 15 employees are affected by the closure of the 10,000-square-foot store.

In the store's boom period, it employed up to 30 people, said Tyler Ching. Over its 37-year history, more than 600 people had been employed there, he said.

Lindberg, who started the operation and for whom the store is named, developed cancer in 1999. Ching said his father understands their decisions.

Leaving the community will be a big change for them, said Georgette Ching, because "this is our lifestyle" even though they live in Mililani.

Tyler grew up in Hau'ula and the store participated in many community activities and helped out with such things as luau, she said.

"Everybody knows they can call us to hold the food in our refrigerator," she said.

Long-time customer Michelle Malufau said her family shopped at Lindy's from the time they moved to Hau'ula two years after the store opened. It was a place to get her candy and crack seeds. A La'ie resident now, Malufau said she still shopped at Lindy's regularly until it stopped restocking its shelves. But she'll miss the convenience.

"Everybody used to come here on Sunday's," Malufau said. "It was always guaranteed open."

Malufau works at the Queen Liliuokalani Children's Center Healthy Start program, based at Hau'ula Kai. She said several Lindy's employees stopped at the office seeking employment or asking if she knew of any job openings.

Rodney Au, who was a Lindy's shopper and worked at the store when he was younger, blamed hard economic times and lack of community support for the store closing.

"This is a low-income town," Au said. "There's a lot of welfare."

The shopping center containing Lindy's was recently renovated with a new facade, parking lot and landscaping.

But the parking lot stood empty last week except for a handful of cars.

The children center's office, a thrift shop, restaurant and post office were the only occupied spaces in the center.

"I'm really really sad because (Lindy's) has been there so long and they're a nice family," said Sharin Au, operator of the thrift shop.

Janine Tannehill, with the Hauula Community Association, said the Chings were "like family."

She said the Chings will be missed but never forgotten.

"Tyler Ching and his family have always contributed to our Hau'ula community with many donations," she said.

The Chings said they will visit the community and plan a farewell party.

"I will be back," said Tyler Ching. "My heart, blood, sweat and tears are all here in Hau'ula and in the store."