Big surprise

LIHUE — There is less than two weeks remaining in February and Maria Pillos of Puhi is wondering what she is going to do.

“There are other places to have lunch,” Pillos said, while enjoying lunch with their great grandson. “But he no like other places. Maybe we’ll go to Walmart — they have a McDonald’s, maybe the Lihue one. We come every day because they like lunch here. And it’s close to home.”

The McDonald’s at the Kukui Grove Center is scheduled to close at the end of the month after a 20-year run, said Wade Lord, Kukui Grove general manager.

“We just found out about it and confirmed it,” he said. “They are doing extremely well in that corner space. They are a high performing tenant with high sales. We would have loved to keep them as a tenant, but we don’t understand the broader picture. They have their reasons.”

Darlene Chung, owner, said it was a difficult decision to close the site. But she said costs, like rent and utilities were high and sales weren’t enough to offset them. It was a smaller McDonald’s that offered a limit menu and employed eight.

Chung owns four other McDonald’s in Lihue, Eleele and Kapaa.

“Unfortunately, sometimes you have to make hard decisions,” she said Wednesday.

There are already four prospects interested in taking McDonald’s spot, Lord said.

“They’re confidential at this time,” he said. “But they’re all national restaurant chains.”

Nationwide, McDonald’s reported fourth-quarter revenues and earnings that topped forecasts, led by a 5.7 percent jump in same-store sales in the United States. Its recent promotion, two items for $2, was a success and it’s since started a two for $5 special.

But last year, McDonald’s closed about 700 sites worldwide.

McDonald’s has part of the Kukui Food Court since 1996.

Dolly and Roy Higa of Lihue are also daily visitors to McDonald’s.

“Are you doing the story on their closing?” Roy said in the gathering of regulars including Westsiders Joe Estacio, Clinton Makanani, and Bowie Leoiki. “We will still keep coming back here because there are other places that sell coffee.”

Mits Nakatsuka of Honolulu said he always comes to the McDonald’s at Kukui Grove when he needs to locate Roy, a classmate.

“We’ll keep coming to the food court,” Dolly said. “There are other places like Sone’s and the noodle shop. Maybe we’ll go to Times for the coffee.”

Wade said Kukui Grove has other leasing options available and has notified people of the availability of the location which will enjoy the injection of a capital investment project to the food court area.

“The improvements are scheduled to start very soon,” Lord said. “The location is an attractive one, and if they’re planning on a restaurant, the high-cost infrastructure is already in place. The leasing agents are already speaking to possible replacement tenants, and we hope to find one real soon.”

Erika Rittenhouse of the Sell Everything kiosks fronting the McDonald’s said the departure cannot be good for them.

“They bring us people,” Rittenhouse said. “Them leaving is not a good thing. But we’ll just wait to see what happens.”

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