HANALEI — Residents hunkered down on north side of the Hanalei River on Monday, as heavy rains closed down Kuhio Highway for most of the day, and though that triggered a slower sales day for many, business owners say they’re starting to see impacts from COVID-19.
The coronavirus outbreak seems to hang over the island like a specter, an enemy that cannot be seen but leaves evidence of its effects on the community in its path, many store owners are already noticing the impacts of the virus.
Mike Ching, manager of Ching Young Shopping Center in Hanalei points out, “I’ve noticed that the parking lots have been more empty.”
In Hanalei it’s clear that there are simply less people out and about, likely in an attempt to stay healthy, as there are both less cars and people on the streets in general compared to just a couple of weeks ago.
“Business in stores at the counter have slowed down a little, but I don’t think we’re really going to see major changes until two weeks from now. At the moment my understanding is that people have been really hoarding stuff,” Ching said, pointing out a temporary uptick in sales on Friday and Saturday as people were stockpiling food, cleaning products, and other basic essentials in preparation for waiting out the coronavirus scare on island. Visitors were alarmed at the short supply of goods in stores, too, and some visitors from California asked Ching if there is a shortage on island.
“I feel like at this point there’s more questions than answers,” Ching said.
Janice Pendleton, owner of Seahorse Boutique in Hanalei says she’s seen sales drop as well.
“It’s been a lot slower, our hours have stayed the same but I noticed some of the other stores have reduced hours,” Pendleton said.
She says that so far business is okay though, but she anticipates it will get worse.
“I think we haven’t seen the full effects yet,” she said, explaining how she’s cutting back on what she plans to put on shelves. “I’ve been canceling orders of products that I’ve had coming in, but when I tell the vendors over the phone they understand and even expected me to cancel the orders.”
Pendleton’s husband is a property manager and she says he’s had 41 cancellations in the past few days.
“Cancellations like that affect business for everybody,” she said.
Pendleton says that everyone is making their concerns known, “I talked to one lady from New York who asked me, ‘Have you been using hand sanitizer?’ ” She assured her that yes she does, is taking all the necessary health precautions.
Holding a container of cleaning product spray in front of her, Pendleton said :“We’re prepared.”
Jordan Fleming is a cashier at Hanalei Strings music store in Hanalei and she says there have been less people coming into the store in general, which she agreed probably has to do with the coronavirus scare. She points out that there hasn’t been any dramatic changes in store yet, though.
“Seems like it’s been slow, and that we’re in a slow season too. Sometimes we’ll close early but we’ve been mostly keep the same hours,” Fleming said.
Some people though, despite the virus, are looking up.
In Kapaa, Bhavana Chawla, owner of her own holistic healing business says work is going well for her, “I have clients that I work with over the phone and the internet, I am not really impacted with that part of my business, and I have not seen a loss of income.”
Chawla said she has friends that have been struggling. One friend had three jobs, but has since lost all her income, because she was unable to continue working.
“This is a time to get creative,” Chawla says, “This is a time where we need to look at how we make money, how we spend money, how that looks to us, and look at the system we are dependent on. We need to ask ourselves, ‘if this system collapses, will we collapse?’”
She thinks it’s a good idea for people to think of ways to make money remotely, as that could be a good alternative for those who have lost their other means of income, such as through traditional means such as by working in a place of business with coworkers.
UPS store manager in Kapaa, Josh Goldman does not feel discouraged by the coronavirus outbreak, and has only seen a slight decrease in business.
“It’s been slowing down a little, but we still have customers coming in, tourists still coming. I don’t think it will be as bad as people think.” Goldman adds, “Just trying to stay positive, I’m not worried about it, we’re in the middle of the ocean.”