LIHU‘E — Personal-shopping and grocery-delivery companies were in business on Kaua‘i years before COVID-19 countermeasures were put in place on the island, but now two of those companies are delivering almost exclusively to Kaua‘i residents in quarantine, or those following stay-at-home orders.
Jon Ziegler, owner of Cost-Go, delivers Costco products to customers’ homes from Lihu‘e to Hanalei three days a week. Since pandemic emergency rules have been put in place, he’s had to hire another person to help out once a week, and is now considering the addition of south side deliveries to expand his business.
“I would say about 10% of my customers are ones who just arrived to the island and are quarantined,” Ziegler said last week as he was shopping for eight clients at Costco, one quarantined because the customer had just flown in to the island. “My number of customers has probably tripled since the stay-at-home order went into place.”
Ziegler has been delivering groceries for a year and half, helping those who live on the North Shore, offering his friends his services first. Customers choose what they need from a list of items on Ziegler’s website and can request specific unlisted items as well. Fees depend on the number of items ordered, and cost for the service starts at $25.
Many of his orders nowadays contain requests for toilet paper, which can be bought at Costco in bulk. He said finding that coveted item is hit-or-miss, but if the store is out, he’ll refund the customer. That same policy applies to all items on the shopping list at Cost-Go.
“If there are not things on the website, I ask them to enter it in the comments and I will pick it up for them. I have also stopped at pharmacies for those that ask. I serve people with families, older people and vacationers, and people who are just too busy,” said Ziegler.
While Ziegler’s business has experienced an uptick in customers enough to merit a part-time employee, Erik Coopersmith, owner of Kaua‘i Island Shopping Service, says business has tapered off — about 90% from pre-COVID-19 numbers — especially since he made a decision not to deliver groceries to non-residents on vacation in quarantine during the month of May, or until the 14-day traveler quarantine has been lifted.
Other customers who have dropped off the KISS radar are those who requested deliveries of Ko Bakery cakes to events island-wide. That business has come to a standstill with the postponement of many events.
Kaua‘i Island Shopping Service is also the exclusive grocery shopping service for all of the high-end Timbers Resort guests, though they have ceased operations during the pandemic as well.
Most of his remaining customers are Kaua‘i locals who are quarantined for one reason or another, and the two dozen monks who live at Wailua Hindu monastery.
“We will not be complicit in people trying to circumvent the quarantine, and there is no sense whatsoever in coming to Kaua‘i to sit in your condo or hotel room for 14 days, ” said Coopersmith.
“Without groceries being delivered to their room, people really cannot come to Kaua‘i under the current emergency order, so we kind of feel like the last line of defense against COVID-19 flying to Kaua‘i, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”
Coppersmith started KISS in 2015, providing groceries for people visiting Kaua‘i. Customers order all of their groceries online from the comfort of their homes before traveling, and the delivery service pre-stocks their accommodations before the visitors arrive.
“In, 2015, there was still no established, sustained, grocery (or) personal shopping service on Kaua‘i,” Coopersmith said.
”I had visited and lived in resort communities on the mainland before moving to Kaua‘i in 2000, so I built the model, created (our) website and started Kaua‘i KISS,” Coppersmith said.
“We look forward to the day when Kaua‘i KISS can serve tourists again, but right now we find ourselves in the unusual place of actually being able to impact that decision, and hope our unwillingness to provide them groceries while they self-quarantine upon arrival here will get them to reconsider their choice to come to Kaua‘i in the first place.”
KISS delivers once a week, usually $300 to $400 of groceries, to people with no other options.
“Our services aren’t cheap, and I think generally as much as they would like to, most locals cannot pay $100 plus to have their groceries delivered by Kauai KISS, which is what it costs.
“I think most people right now just do not have the extra disposable income to pay for someone to shop for and deliver their groceries. It’s a small luxury, and people are cutting back on expenses, not spending on luxuries,” Coppersmith said. “It is very time-consuming work. I pay my personal shoppers fairly, and I need to make a profit, too.”
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.