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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:45 a.m., Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Generations of shoppers grew up with Liberty House

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

For generations, Liberty House has been the place to shop for everything from prom dresses to rice cookers.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

The announcement today that Liberty House stores will convert to Macy's gave Penny Kekahuna worries that she'll soon be saying aloha to a familiar friend.

"I'm going to miss it," said Kekahuna, a 52-year-old homemaker from the Papa kolea Hawaiian homestead. "I've known Liberty House ever since I've grown up."

A trip to the Ala Moana Liberty House has become part of Kekahuna's weekly routine, kind of like visiting a family friend. Liberty House always seemed to stand out from the big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco that have sprouted around the Islands.

"Liberty House is kind of expensive, but they have good quality," Kekahuna said. "The workers are very, very friendly. I haven't run across anyone yet who is grumpy."

Pat Masuda and her friend Muriel Muraoka, retirees from Kalihi, shop at Liberty House several times a week.

This morning, Masuda was looking for a new purse for a trip to Las Vegas next month to play the slots and electronic poker.

"Liberty House has always been our favorite store," she said. "We buy everything there: shoes, handbags."

For generations of families, Liberty House has become part of the backdrop of life in the Islands. It's been the place to go for everything from pots and pans to special gifts.

But as bankruptcy and hard times fell on the company, Nancy Ginoza, a 64-year-old hairdresser from Pacific Palisades, noticed a change.

"Lately the merchandise hasn't been that great," she said. "Not too much choice. All the same style."

And she finds better prices at the Pearl Harbor Navy base, where she has shopping privileges. But Ginoza long ago fell into the habit of riding The Bus for an hour and 10 minutes each way to the Ala Moana store at least once a week.

"I can't shop on the Mainland so I have to depend on Liberty House," Ginoza said.

Like others this morning, Ginoza hopes Macy's will bring in more variety at better prices.

But Janet Mikasa, who is visiting from California, has shopped at Macy's and Liberty House and doesn't notice much difference.

"They're both pretty high-end," she said. "They're actually pretty much the same."

And that's OK with Kekahuna, she said, looking up at the familiar sign and hibiscus logo on the side of the Ala Moana store.

"I'll miss the name itself," Kekahuna said. "To suddenly call it Macy's will be a big change."