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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Battered Kahala Mall ready to reopen

By Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

Daisy Phanphongsa worked yesterday to get the KB Toys in Kahala Mall cleaned up for today's reopening. Stores have had to remove carpet, mop up mud and try to dry things out after Friday's flood.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The Kahala Mall will be open for business today, but work remains to be done including finding new carpeting for its corridors.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The Kahala Mall plans to reopen its doors this morning, nearly four days after shocked merchants and shoppers watched floodwaters spill through the center's concourse and stores.

Crews have worked overtime since the torrent swept through dozens of stores a little after noon Friday and damaged 90 percent of shops in the mall. Since then, workers have removed soaked carpets, and mopped and scrubbed the 418,000-square foot center.

The first weekend in April is normally a relatively busy time for the shopping center because many students are off for spring break. Scott Creel, regional marketing manager for Kahala Mall, said lost sales could amount to about 10 percent of total sales for April, but added that merchants hoped to recoup some of that.

"We're going to open if the mall reopens," Cheryl Robertson, regional manager for Mark's Hallmark store, said over the roar of a fan drying out carpet at the shop yesterday afternoon. "We're still hoping for good Easter sales."

Robertson said there were indications that customers will be coming back, if only to survey what happened. Her store, like others along a corridor with the worst flooding, were swamped with 4 to 6 inches of water. Water burst in from the Hunakai Street side of the shopping center, catching people off guard.

"When the mall opens, maybe people will come just to see," she said, adding that she's taken calls from customers asking whether there will be a "flood sale."

Not all stores will reopen today, and visitors will see temporary fixes where the carpeting sporting Kahala Mall's logo previously lay. Consolidated Theatres, Thinker Toys, RadioShack and Morgan Beret Fine Lingerie are in the wing where the worst damage occurred and won't reopen today.

"We're shooting for Wednesday," said Daren Hashimoto, Thinker Toys store manager, who'd worked up to 12 hours a day since Friday to remove carpeting, soaked merchandise and wooden flooring. He estimated the store sustained up to $27,000 in lost sales, and damaged goods and flooring.

At Morgan Beret, owner Julie Hassel said she was still drying out floors and drywall and won't open until Thursday. She said she lost $30,000 worth of merchandise, along with a computer system.

"We're just thankful no one got hurt," Hassel said.

The Kahala Mall plans to kick off the reopening with newspaper and radio advertisements today and tomorrow, alerting people to the reopening and thanking the community, employees and store owners for their patience. The mall plans to make up for lost time.

"We're of the mind the show must go on," Creel said. "Customers will be surprised at the progress we've made."

Repairs to the mall will continue, and visitors today most likely will still see some large industrial fans in stores. Parts of the mall have a musty, damp smell, and carpeting sporting the Kahala Mall logo is gone until a replacement is found.

Yesterday workers from Floors of Hawaii laid down temporary carpet in high-traffic areas. There is no estimate on how much the flood cost Kahala Mall in damaged merchandise and fixtures, Creel said. The shopping center is insured for floods, he said.

The same can't be said for some retailers, who yesterday said they had not thought they needed insurance to operate in a mall. They said they hadn't stopped to consider whether they'd be asking the shopping center to help cover their losses.

"They lost some revenue, but they'll bounce back," said Stephany Sofos of Sofos & Co. The mall, with more than 90 shops and eateries, caters to some of O'ahu's most affluent communities and is almost 100 percent leased.

"It holds a strong position," said Mike Hamasu, director of research at Colliers Monroe & Friedlander, a commercial real- estate brokerage. "Those people who have shopped there will likely return."

Exterior businesses such as Star Market, Chili's Grill & Bar and I Love Country Cafe Express were unaffected by the flooding. Some interior stores with separate entrances, such as California Pizza Kitchen and Macy's, were back in business Saturday.

Morgan Beret's Hassel said she was gratified that friends and customers were quick to call and offer help. She said customers' help offers were almost overwhelming, and that one even brought in buckets and sponges.

But "there's only so much you can do," she said. "So I say when we open, just bring your Gold Card."

Reach Greg Wiles at gwiles@honoluluadvertiser.com.