Regulars will miss Star Market Kahala
By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
By Catherine E. Toth
KAHALA — Linda Chang walked up and down the nearly empty aisles at Star Market in Kahala Mall, hoping to find some bargains before the grocery store closes its doors for the last time tomorrow.
Shopping at Star Market had been part of Chang's routine for years, as she lives less than a mile away. She shopped here at least three times a week.
"I feel so sad about it closing," the 48-year-old office worker and mother of three teenagers said on Tuesday. "I can come here and get everything I need. It's so convenient."
Star Market's lease with Kahala Mall ended this month. The kama'aina retailer also closed its Kane'ohe store in February and has plans to renovate its remaining eight locations on O'ahu, Maui and Kaua'i. Walgreens plans to open its second store in the Kane'ohe location.
Ron Yoda, Kahala Mall general manager, said there are two options for the 26,000-square-foot space Star Market will vacate: splitting it up for multiple vendors or filling the space with a single tenant.
Still, some regulars say nothing can replace Star Market, which has anchored the mall since 1961.
Nohelba Cortes, a 58-year-old caregiver from Hawai'i Kai, shops at Star Market every day, sometimes more than once. In fact, she comes so often, she knows many of the employees by their first names.
"I will definitely miss the people," she said Tuesday. "The people here are very nice."
Cortes chatted with the cashier in line, giving her a big hug before she left with tomato sauce, baked beans, oatmeal, rice and some crackers, all 25 percent off (since slashed to 50 percent).
"You know, lately, I didn't love the store. The prices were very high. But (the location) is just so perfect," Cortes said. "I would go to Longs, get a cup of coffee, then go to Star. I hate to see it go."
Shoppers streamed into the grocery store this week, hoping to take advantage of the close-out sale.
But by Tuesday, there were no pies, milk, fresh meat or wine left. The produce section had oranges, pears, kiwis, bags of carrots and grapes, but little else. The bakery and deli counters were closed.
At one of the store's two entrances stood a yellow display board with Polaroids of employees who work at this location. Each worker wrote a message at the bottom of their photo, saying things like "I will miss you" and "It's been fun."
Star Market Ltd. will spend between $2 million and $3 million per store on renovations to its existing locations, said president and chief executive officer Karl Wissmann. The renovations will include upgrading fixtures and expanding the deli, bakery and liquor selections.
Renovations to stores in Lihu'e and Kihei are expected to be done by April.
Closing the stores in Kahala and Kane'ohe was a financial decision, Wissmann said.
"(Kahala) has never been a great site for a grocery store because of the parking," he said, referring to the limited stalls in the area fronting the store. "Obviously, we appreciate all the patronage from all our customers over the years. ... But closing this store really opens it up for us to move forward."
Lara Adelberger, a 38-year-old mother of two, heard about the sale and stopped by Tuesday. Her 2-year-old daughter, Paige, was in tow, pushing a little shopping cart.
Adelberger, who lives in Hawai'i Kai, shops at Star Market a couple of times a month, whenever her daughter would attend preschool at the nearby YMCA.
"It was convenient, definitely, that was the biggest thing," said Adelberger, who came to the grocery store in search of baby food for 2-month-old Megan.
She was surprised by the news that it was closing.
"There always seemed to be a lot of people here whenever I'd come," Adelberger said. "It should be really interesting to see what takes its place."
Chang hopes another grocery will move into the vacated space.
"It was ideal," she said. "I like to do everything all at once ... Hopefully, it'll be replaced by another market. I hope, anyway."
Reach Catherine E. Toth at email@example.com.