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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 4, 2002

Noriko's auction set for today

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer

KAHALU'U — Furniture, fixtures and office equipment from Noriko's of Hawai'i, a Windward jewelry manufacturer and retailer that catered to Japanese tourists for 30 years, will be auctioned today following a years-long slump that worsened in the past year and forced a foreclosure on the company's building.

Grating barred the Noriko's site yesterday in Kahalu'u. The company has been liquidating its merchandise and now will auction off its furniture and equipment.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

Yesterday and Thursday, the store held a liquidation sale of its inventory, selling jewelry, clothing, handbags and other souvenirs at 75 percent off the retail price.

The auction will begin at 10 a.m. at 47-525 Kamehameha Highway in Kahalu'u.

On Thursday, customers were picking up children's backpacks with wheels for $7, travel bags for $5 and T-shirts at 4 for $10.

Shoppers agreed the prices were good but the selection was limited.

Still, there were a Dooney & Bourke handbag, black pearl jewelry, sapphire rings and diamond earrings available.

Marie Kastensmith, a vendor who sold locally-made products to Noriko's for

15 years, said she could see trouble coming for more than a year.

But the store had been suffering since the 1991 Gulf War, like so many others, she said.

"It took a year for them to pay," said Kastensmith, who was shopping and offering encouragement to some of the employees who were laid off but hired back for the liquidation sale. "I would stop in as the year went by and there was less and less merchandise. So the writing was on the wall."

Company officials declined to comment.

Chuck Choi, attorney for the company, said he couldn't comment on the reasons for the liquidation nor could he talk about the company's problems. Choi said a foreclosure action was under way, but the store had not filed for bankruptcy.

Bank of Hawaii is foreclosing on the 12,000-square-foot building; Martin McClain, of McClain Auctions, is the appointed receiver and was conducting the sale and auction.

Noriko's opened its first store in Waikiki 30 years ago and opened a store in the 1970s at what was then Temple Valley Shopping Center in Kahalu'u, McClain said.

"They started off at Temple Valley in one bay, then they had two and kept adding," McClain said. "When they finally left there, they had five or six bays and it was so congested they had to move because they couldn't fit all the (tour) buses in."

Noriko's built its present building and parking lot in 1990 across Kamehameha Highway from the Hygienic Store, leasing the property from L/Nine Partnership, which owns four parcels at the site under the name of Mountain View Shopping Center, McClain said.

Most people consider the urban-style building an eyesore because it blocks the view to the ocean and is not in character with its country surrounding, said Kahalu'u Neighborhood Board chairman Daniel Bender.

Nevertheless, the community has been discussing the possibility of buying the building to use as a community center, Bender said, adding that he doubts that the city could afford it.

The city is improving the properties across the street and the canal from Noriko's, with plans for a new regional park and a canoe and storage facility.