Honolulu strip mall loses stores
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer
NUUANU — An elderly woman trudged slowly across the parking lot of the Nuuana Shopping Plaza last week, grumbling out loud that the center's TCBY Yogurt shop had recently gone out of business.
When she arrived at the Huckleberry Farms Natural Foods store, where she expected to purchase papayas, she was doubly disappointed to discover that business had also pulled up stakes.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the plaza parking lot, at the Huckleberry Farms Health and Beauty store, Eleanor Hee, a longtime plaza customer, was pondering the closeout and 30 percent going-out-of-business discount notice posted on that store's window.
"I think I'll come back on Tuesday because that's their last day" Hee said. "I'm hoping I'll get 50 percent off that day."
Folks who have been shopping at the center since the early 1980s — and even before that, when it was the location of the Chun Hoon Market — aren't sure what to make of the changes that have occurred here since Walgreens purchased the property lease in May 2008.
Some, such as local resident Walter Clemente, have heard that Walgreens is going to move in and displace local merchants.
"I hope this place doesn't go," he said "It's been here since I was a little kid."
Pete Pascua, owner of both Huckleberry Farms locations, said his understanding is that Walgreens wants to put its store in one side of the L-shaped plaza, and relocate long-term leaseholders to the other.
"That's if the final plan is to build a Walgreens," Pascua said. "It's been going back and forth."
Pascua was certain that he didn't want to relocate his own businesses because to do so would mean operating in less space. So, after 24 years, he'll be gone by the end of the month. Beyond that, he's not sure what he'll do next.
Michael Polzin, spokes-man for Walgreens in Deerfield, Ill., confirmed that the company expects to put one of its stores on the property. But he said there is no timeframe for when the work might begin.
"We plan to put a new store in that location and to redevelop that entire property," Polzin said. "But there is still additional work that needs to be done with the other tenants before we can move forward and finish our planning."
Polzin said that the completed new Walgreens store would conform to the company's typical size of 14,500 square feet. He said the company couldn't put a dollar figure on what the redevelopment project will cost until the lease details are worked out with the other tenants, and the project reaches its final planning stages.
Several businesses at the plaza, such as Super Cuts, Radio Shack and New Visions, which have 10 or more years left on their lease agreements, expect to stay whatever Walgreens decides, according to one plaza employee who did not want to be named for fear of retribution.
Kazu Goto, owner of the Hungry Lion restaurant, said he still has eight years left on his lease and intends to continue operating until that agreement expires or Walgreens makes him a buyout offer he can't refuse.
"Unless they take some action, I'll stay in business," said Gato, who added that he is still waiting to find out what Walgreens will do.
"I only found out Huckleberry Farms was going out of business last month," he said.