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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Demise of Hawai'i's oldest retail store chain saddens many

 •  Macy's pledges to keep spirit of Liberty House
 •  Q&A: Retailer Macy's says it's here for long haul
 •  A look at Liberty House, FDS and Macy's
 •  Details of sale ensure most of 3,000 workers will be retained
 •  Liberty House buyer follows proven strategy
 •  Lee Cataluna: Liberty House came through for local folks
 •  Graphic: Liberty House chronology
What do you think of the Liberty House purchase? Join our discussion.

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

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

Liberty House always seemed to stand out from the big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, Sam's Club and Costco that have sprouted around the Islands in the past few years. So a trip to the Ala Moana Liberty House was always more than just part of Kekahuna's weekly routine.

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

Yesterday's announcement by Federated Department Stores Inc. that it will buy Hawai'i's oldest and largest department store chain means an end to a Hawai'i household name after 152 years.

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

"Oh, no! I don't like this," said Jeanne Childs, of Lihu'e, Kaua'i. "Liberty House has been a part of my life. It's always been a social thing. You go there and you show, you meet people and you talk."

Even though the locations will be the same, the stores will be different, Childs said. She'll feel the difference on both an emotional and a physical level.

"It's not going to have that Liberty House smell," she said.

Pat Masuda said she shops often at Ala Moana Liberty House.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Pat Masuda and her friend Muriel Muraoka, both retirees from Kalihi, go to the Ala Moana store several times a week.

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

"We buy everything there," Masuda said, "shoes, handbags."

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."

She finds better prices at the Pearl Harbor naval 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 many others, Pauline Quinsaat of Pa'ia, Maui, hopes Macy's will bring in more variety at better prices.

"We hear so much about Macy's," she said holding cosmetics she bought at the Liberty House in Kahului, Maui. "When I'm on the Mainland, I shop there.''

She's happy that a retailer with a good reputation will take over Liberty House, rather than have the chain go under.

"It will be good for the community,'' Quinsaat said.

But it's sad that yet another local retailer is dying out, said Valerie Moreau of Pa'ia.

"I hope (the new Macy's) will continue to be a place where locals can shop and get a good sale,'' said Moreau.

Others are more emotional about the store they called their own.

"I don't like it," said Joanne Kahaloa of Hilo, Hawai'i. "I am sick about it."

Aaron Watkins of the Big Island's Puna district was not happy about the deal, either.

"Keep it local," he said. "I don't like big companies."

Janet Mikasa says Macy's and Liberty House are similar.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Janet Mikasa, who is visiting from Southern California, has shopped at Macy's at home and at Liberty House when she comes to Hawai'i. She doesn't notice much difference.

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

But not exactly the same, Kekahuna said, looking up at the familiar Liberty House 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."

Advertiser staff writers Timothy Hurley, Jan TenBruggencate and Hugh Clark contributed to this report.