Fresh flavors fill old space
• Photo gallery: Foodland Farms in Aina Haina
by Andrew Gomes
Advertiser Staff Writer
Foodland Super Market Ltd. today extends its foray into more upscale grocery retailing to O'ahu, opening a Foodland Farms store at Aina Haina Shopping Center.
The store, slated to open at 8 a.m., replaces a 60-year-old Foodland store at the East Honolulu neighborhood retail center that the state's largest grocery chain closed in August.
Until now, Foodland has operated similar store formats only in Neighbor Island resort areas, opening a Foodland Farms in 2007 at Mauna Lani Resort on the Big Island and a Lahaina Farms store in 2008 at Lahaina Gateway shopping center on Maui.
The Aina Haina Foodland Farms also follows the 2008 entry of Whole Foods Market not far away in Kahala, and new or renovated O'ahu Safeway stores offering increased selections of natural, organic and gourmet foods in recent years.
Keoni Chang, corporate chef for Foodland, said the goal for the kama'aina company was to offer more fresh, local and prepared foods in combination with the most popular typical grocery store items in a hybrid kind of store that hopefully will be fun to shop.
"We really wanted to take the drudgery out of grocery shopping," he said.
Among features at the new Foodland Farms store are an in-store floral designer, a Mondo Gelato bar, an R. Field Wine Co. outlet, fresh foods prepared by in-store chefs, as well as common items in a traditional Foodland.
The store's produce department is divided to segregate locally grown items from imported produce.
"We're partnering more with smaller farmers, so when we get more local foods in we want to highlight it," said Simon Cutts, Foodland's director of natural, gourmet, produce and floral products.
The R. Field area with imported cheeses, meats and other gourmet products will be similar to R. Field in Foodland's Beretania and Kailua stores, but also will feature a chef preparation station to produce salads, fresh mozzarella cheese and other items.
Food sampling will be more promoted, Foodland said.
A beverage bar features fountain sodas, fresh lemonade, coffee, hot cocoa and a variety of iced teas. Foodland said its hot cocoa is the same brand served at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas.
Some elements of the store are common to other Foodland stores but didn't exist in the former Aina Haina Foodland — such as fresh seafood, meat and bakery departments as well as display cases filled with prepared foods.
About 25 additional employees were hired for the new store, which remains the same size as the old store at 25,000 square feet.
"We are delighted to celebrate the rebirth of our Aina Haina store as Foodland Farms, and are especially thrilled that we have a brand new store to share with the customers who have supported us at this location for nearly 60 years," said Jenai S. Wall, Foodland chairwoman and CEO.
FACED WITH A CHOICE
Foodland was faced with a dilemma over whether to leave Aina Haina Shopping Center at the end of last year when its lease expired or renovate the store at considerable expense in a weak economy.
The store opened in July 1950 and was Foodland's third-oldest store.
California-based real estate investment firm American Commercial Equities LLC, which bought Aina Haina Shopping Center in June 2007, is working to freshen up the aging complex anchored by Foodland.
American Commercial plans to add some new tenants, such as recently opened Genki Sushi, though most of the roughly 30 tenants are being retained.
A few that have closed include Chuck E. Cheese's, Komakata Restaurant, Ryan's Sportsworld and Akamai Music & Enrichment.
Foodland said the strategy with its new store is to retain existing customers from the generally affluent community and draw more customers from the surrounding region.
Wall said no other Foodland Farms stores are planned, though the company will consider opportunities that may arise in other communities that would fit well with the concept.
Foodland operates 31 stores statewide. A 32nd store is planned for Kapolei next year; it's slated to be a traditional store.