Rush at Ross

LIHUE — It looked and sounded like Black Friday at Kukui Grove Center for the opening of Ross Dress for Less.

People waited in long lines to get in the doors. Others poured out with as many bags as they could carry, accompanied by children hauling even more. Horns honked in the parking lot.

“Who doesn’t love Ross? Their stuff is cheap,” shopper Brandie Silva said. “We’ve been waiting years for Ross to come to Kauai.”

Silva and her 6-year-old daughter, Wailana, spent four hours browsing the tidy new aisles, and another hour waiting to check out.

“It’s pink,” a smiling Wailana said of her new, child-size chair, just after anxiously tearing of the tag. “And it has diamonds on it.”

“Where else on Kauai can you get a chair like that?” her mother asked. “I can’t wait to come back!”

Brenda Rabellizsa and Francine Poouahi, both from Ross stores on Oahu, were on island since last Friday, preparing the store for the grand opening, including training the Kauai associates.

“‘Oh, Lord,’ is all I can say,” said Poouahi, from the Ross in Pearl City Highlands. “The opening was awesome. At least I didn’t get (run) over. I’m going home and sleep. I might even fall asleep on the trip home.”

Stephanie Ano, assistant real estate manager at Kukui Grove Center, said the opening went smoothly.

“We had people lining up from 6:15 a.m., and after establishing the space for dignitaries, moved the people so they could be part of the blessing,” Ano said. “The Ross people conducted the blessing inside the store before coming out so after they presented monies to the Kauai High School band, and the Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii, shoppers were in the store by 9 a.m.”

In the past, local interior designer Tiffany Brown-Miller would fly to Honolulu to get certain items she needed for her commercial and residential projects. Now that Ross is here, however, she says she won’t have to.

“Product and pricing,” she said of what sets the discount store apart.

Brown-Miller left with a trunk full of home decorative items, from rugs and kitchenware to a small side table.

“I’m loaded,” she said. “(The wait) was worth it.”

Not everyone agreed.

Bonnie Charney and Tonya Keaton went to the opening simply to visit one of the store’s new employees. Surprisingly, they managed to make it out without spending a dime.

“We’re probably the only people who left without a bag,” Charney said.

For Keaton, the line to check out was simply too long. However, she said she plans to return on a “saner day.”

“We’re coming back,” she said.

“When the craziness stops,” added Charney.

Ross Dress for Less occupies the location formerly filled by Sears and offers discounted clothes, shoes, furniture, houseware and toys. It is among a number of new businesses to join the Lihue mall.

Ross has reportedly hired 90 people — all Kauai residents — and is still accepting applications.

“I love it,” employee Tiana Mae Seguerre said of the opening day excitement. “Cashiering is fun. This is just like the best job I’ve ever had. I’m into clothes and fashion, so this is fun. The opening was challenging, but I got through it. I survived.”

Rabellizsa said that when the Ross in Ewa Beach opened, customers waited three hours in the checkout line.

“This was pretty good,” she said of the Lihue location. “Most customers were waiting between 45 minutes to an hour.”

Dara Schofield said her wait was more like two hours. However, it didn’t bother her, and she left with a bag full of clothes and two large pillow chairs for her children.

When asked if it was worth it, she said, “Yes, we didn’t have anything else to do today.”

Like most major shopping events, Ross’ opening was not without its hiccups and angry shoppers.

At one point in the early afternoon, two women in the parking lot screamed profanities at one another in a dispute over a parking stall. Another woman reportedly fainted at a Ross register, causing medics to respond.

And there were those who simply had to make it in on opening day.

Maureen Nuccio-Hiraga said she returned a second time to shop, her service dog Sager finding a bunch of new toys and accessories.

“We came earlier, but the crowds were big,” Nuccio-Hiraga said. “We went out for lunch and returned later — it was just right. We need to support stores like these because it provides jobs, and it means we don’t need to go to Oahu to shop.”

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