WAIPOULI — When Darlene Fujita looked out the front doors of the new Longs Drugs store Sunday morning, and saw the crowd of people waiting for the 8 a.m. opening, she smiled.
“I see a lot of family, I see a lot of friends,” said Fujita, store manager. “It warms my heart that everybody turned out this early for us.”
All wanted to be there for the grand opening that included a blessing, hula, thanks, praise and plenty of store specials. All was quiet in the parking lot about 6:30 a.m., but by 7, residents, project officials and guests had gathered in front of the 27,000-square-foot store and its parking lot spread over 3.7 acres fronting Kuhio Highway and near the Courtyard by Marriott.
It was an event Ivy Santos wasn’t about to miss.
“It’s long awaited,” she said. “This is the best thing that ever happened to Longs. Look at that,” she added, glancing at deep red, “Longs Drugs” above the doors.
Santos spoke of more space, more variety and more selection, too, in the new store.
“This is long deserved,” she said.
Friend Raynette Domingo, a longtime Longs shopper, also came to check out the sales and tour the store. She likes this location over its former Kapaa site.
“I’m glad to see it,” she said.
Construction began in late January and just wrapped up. The store offers the usual Longs Drugs array of health, beauty and everyday household items. It also includes a photo department, plants and flowers, and pharmacy. The new store employs about 40. CVS Health operates about 7,700 CVS Pharmacy and Longs Drugs Stores, including about 50 in Hawaii. Average annual sales are estimated at $9.5 million per store.
New is the drive-through pharmacy, which is a first on Kauai. It goes well with Longs’ mission to provide healthy products and encourage an active lifestyle. Earlier this year, Longs stopped selling tobacco products.
“Welcome everybody to our beautiful new store,” said Tanya Verdif, district manager to the growing crowd of adults and children.
She introduced pharmacy manager Rachael Taira, who will be instrumental as Longs does its best to guide customers on a path to better health.
“I think you’ll really enjoy some of the new products that we have at the store,” she said.
Project on-site engineer Jeremiah Elsfelder, with Allied Builders System, said construction went well from start to finish and weather cooperated. He noted there were 131 coconut trees standing throughout the parking lot and near the building.
“I’m super proud of this project. I’m glad they were able to preserve the trees,” he said. “I really feel like they were able to make this place fit here, which was good. Working with the community was great. I love this project, I really do. I’m proud of this job.”
Architect Avery Youn mingled with the crowd and smiled as he admired the store.
“I think it turned out beautiful,” he said. “I think it’s one of the nicer Longs in the state of Hawaii.”
“We went the extra mile to make it blend with the resort facilities in this area,” he added.
Clesson Ching of Wailua, a frequent shopper at Longs Drugs, said he wanted to witness the grand opening ceremonies for the new store. He liked the look of the store and said it was well done. All that remained was the chance to do some shopping once the doors opened at 8.
“I want to share my respects for the opening of the new Longs and I wanted to share with them the blessing of the Longs Drugs store,” he said. “I’m anxious to go in there and look at the spacious store.”
Susan Otei said Longs has always been one of her favorite stores.
“They see me almost every day,” she said.
Otei shops at Longs most mornings before going to work. She likes the friendly staff, variety of products, low prices and frequent sales. And she’s a fan of the new location, which offers convenient parking.
“It will be easier to get in and out of in the morning,” she said.
The opening was preceded by a blessing with the Rev. Jade Waialeale Battad and Rev. Poki Battad. Waialeale Battad also performed the ground-breaking blessing for the project in January.
“I’m very thankful to be back here to do the grand opening,” she said. “It’s a beautiful project. Jeremiah outdid himself. He really became a good neighbor.”
Kumu Hula Leina’ala Jardin of Halau Ka Lei Mokihana O Leina’ala said some of the coconut trees removed to make way for the new store were used by the group to make pahu drums, which were part of their performance Sunday morning.
She praised Elsfelder and Youn for helping to make that happen.
“The trees live on,” she said. “I wanted to share that. Thanks for allowing the trees that once lived here to live on.”
“Mahalo to everyone and anyone who played a part in our halau receiving this,” she said. “We’ll hold this dearly close to us forever and ever, and this will always echo the sound of the land right here that we stand on today.”