Employers desperately seeking Susans, Johns and Peters

LIHU’E — With Kaua’i’s unemployment rate hovering around 2.5 percent, and just 850 people out of work in August, the island’s labor market is getting even tighter, with managers of four new stores at Kukui Grove Center desperately seeking employees, and managers of every other store in the mall and elsewhere scrambling to find seasonal workers for the upcoming holidays.

It was in this setting that Kukui Grove Center leaders held a mall-wide mini job fair recently, with merchants taking advantage of expected large crowds to also set out some for-sale items in an impromptu sidewalk sale coinciding with the Macy’s Community Shopping Day event.

White packages with red lettering dotted the mall, and flapped in the brisk trades.

Jonell Tafua, Kukui Grove Center’s new mall marketing manager, working for CB Richard Ellis, whose leaders manage the mall, said they had a good turnout for the Macy’s Community Shopping Day event that produced the white packages while benefiting leaders and clients of local nonprofit organizations.

Based on this, mall officials also scheduled an inhouse job fair to fill some of the many anticipated vacancies, as well as fill current positions.

Tafua explained that four new tenants with stores currently under construction are expected to open before the holidays, including Kay’s Jewelers, Eye Candy, L&L Drive-In, and Vitamin World.

Members of management teams from these new tenants took advantage of the mini job fair to market their new establishments, as well as recruit employees.

Natalie Cota, one of the assistant managers for Vitamin World, just recently moved here from Las Vegas.

She was one of the managers working the lunchtime crowd on the mall, with literature touting the benefits of Vitamin World, which she says is currently scheduled to open on Monday, Oct. 17.

“We have a lot of positions,” she noted. “Currently, Vitamin World is looking to hire at least 10 people. Some of these will be trained and moved to the Kapa’a store, when it opens in January.”

Cota, who has worked with Vitamin World for two years, said they are offering a wide range of employment opportunities, from full-time management positions to casual, part-time openings.

Vitamin World’s second store is scheduled to open in Kaua’i Village shopping center in Waipouli, in the vicinity of the Starbucks Coffee that recently opened there.

Tafua said that, due to the blustery weather conditions, a lot of the existing tenants opted to just man tables outside their stores. These tenants were concentrating on bolstering their staffs in anticipation of the extended holiday hours.

Additionally, Tafua said that mall merchants celebrated with a sidewalk sale, to provide shoppers with even more bargains to supplement the Macy’s Community Shopping Day sale.

Several of the mall’s tenants, including representatives of Cingular Cellular, Deja Vu Outlet, and Otsuka’s, had merchandise spread out outside their store, and Dean Nakayama of Kauai Bakery & Cinnamon said he set up his chocolate machine inside Macy’s.

“We’ve always done well on sidewalk sales,” said Marc Imamura of the Cingular store. “And, in addition to the many bargains outside, we have a lot more inside, too.”

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