“You walk in the doors and it’s like you’re in America.”
Koloa resident Alakea Lightfeather said that of the new Safeway that opened in Lihue on Friday.
“It’s so amazing to have choices,” said Marion Lewis, from Kalaheo. “I mean, this place has options. It’s been years since I’ve been able to just go to a supermarket like this.”
Lewis and Lightfeather were perusing the dairy aisle, but they had been through the whole store, exploring the variety of products on the shelves.
“They have so many different kinds of cheese,” Lewis said. “Before, if I wanted to make a dish with cheese in it, I went and got cheese. Now I have all of these choices, like what kind of feta do I want?”
The 58,000-square-foot store in the new Hokulei Village is open 24 hours a day and employs around 150 people. As well as a market, Safeway is home to a pharmacy, a Starbucks Coffee counter and a Bank of Hawaii branch. It also has fresh fruit, a sushi bar, an olive bar, and butcher’s block meats.
“This whole day has been awesome, I got to do the blessing today personally before the doors opened,” said Blanche Acoba, an employee who was handing out granola to customers on Friday.
Friday kicked off a grand opening weekend with prizes, cake and free samples.
Every 15 minutes or so, cashiers gave out a bag of groceries. Throughout the weekend, Safeway will be giving away $50 gift cards to 100 randomly selected customers who use their Safeway card.
Along with the new store came a few new products and brands, or more varieties of old favorites. Many of those new options were highlighted in sample stations throughout the store.
One of the new brands was LifeFoods, a Maui-based company that makes organic, gluten free, vegan mung bean burgers.
“We’re just getting our product into Safeways this week,” said Michelle Valentin, the rep handing out samples. “It’s a great timing, being able to be here for the opening of this store.”
Customers said they were glad to have a bigger supermarket in Lihue.
“It’s a central location,” Lewis said. “It was a long drive to the other one in Kapaa. Now it’s closer.”
Acoba said as the doors opened Friday morning, she watched people from Anahola and from Kekaha come into the store.
“It’s great to see people from all over the island here today,” Acoba said.
Some came to the grand opening purely for the sport of it.
“We come out to things like this because it’s fun to watch,” said Brittany Sorensen, from the Omao area. “It’s something fun to do, people watching.”
Bonita Garma, also from Omao, said it’s not unusual to have a high turnout for a store opening event. She and Sorensen try to go to as many of them as possible because it’s something new to do on the island.
“It’s a small island,” Garma said. “Something new always attracts a crowd. Plus, it’s a bigger store.”
Store employees said they’ve been preparing for the opening for days and they’re expecting a busy weekend.
“There’s lots of good deals,” said Keola Data, one of the store’s employees. “It’s going to be busy like this for a while.”