HANALEI — Ching Young Village Shopping Center and Hanalei Center shopping center are now open, giving the town a more cheery and uplifting feel to it.
Hanalei, like so many other places in the country, began to feel like a ghost town after businesses shut down resulting from restrictions made to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The North Shore community is just beginning to get back on track, as businesses are looking to recovery financially. Meanwhile, everyone is also seeking a new normal as they begin to do things like work, go clothes shopping and socialize once again.
Kapeka Estrella, manager at Sand People in Hanalei Center, is enjoying returning to work. “It gives me a new perspective at my job. I feel even more appreciative of my job and the customers.”
She is relieved that at last there is a sense of normalcy around town these days following business reopenings. Though there hasn’t been as much foot traffic as she would like, it’s a start.
“People have been walking around more now that the coffee shop (Hanalei Bread Company) is open next door, too, so that helps,” Estrella adds.
Billabong Hanalei at Ching Young Village is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and shoppers can be seen there happily looking around and grabbing items to purchase at the surf shop during the 30%-off clothing sale. Many businesses around town are using discounts on merchandise as incentives to bring more people through their doors.
Shopper Emily Blackburn of Kilauea says about life in general during the pandemic, “It feels nice to see people out and about again. And it’s just one of those beautiful, epic spring days.”
North shore resident Aaron Martin adds while standing in line, “We saw families at the beach coming out and feeling safe again. It’s nice.”
Store owners, employees and shoppers alike continue to follow safety precautions and are being careful to wear masks, use hand sanitizer and stay six feet away from others.
Though it’s refreshing seeing businesses opening up again, it definitely comes with a new set of challenges.
Charlie Cowden, co-owner of Billabong Hanalei, says, “It’s good to be back open. It’s a little bit spooky because we don’t know where this is all going to go.
“Some of our stores are doing better than others. Hanalei Surf Company has a large focus on equipment and sporting supplies, and has been doing better. Retail including Billabong and Rip Curl stores have a lot of clothing and fashion merchandise and those are a little slower just because those products are not in as high a demand,” he said.
Cowden co-owns Billabong Hanalei with Kathy DeTreuax as well as Hanalei Surf Company – Backdoor and Rip Curl Hanalei. Cowden also is the owner of Hanalei Surf Company.
“We’re concerned that if things continue the way it is, and with this demand for sales, that we won’t be able to stay in business,” Cowden said.
“Then there’s this social trend among young people, where it’s hard to make a living. Locals tend to move to places like Oregon, Washington and Las Vegas. Those people are being replaced by people who move here and have passive income. It’s sad. It’s been happening for a long time, but this (COVID-19) is accelerating the trend.”
Manager Mike Ching announced that several businesses have reopened at Ching Young Village Shopping Center, with most open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., including Big Save Market, Billabong Hanalei, Divine Planet, Aloha from Hanalei, Seahorse Boutique, Hot Rocket, Hanalei Surf Company — Back Door, Kokonut Kids, Sway Hanalei, Chocolate Hanalei, Pedal and Paddle, Sunshine Emporium and Spinning Dolphin T-Shirts.
Hanalei Strings to reopen this week
Take-out places that are open include L&L Hawaiian BBQ, Chicken In A Barrel, Village Snack Shop and Bakery, Pat’s Tacos, Hanalei Cafe and Aloha Juice Bar.
Offices open in the center include Honua Engineering, Timeshare Resales, Napali Properties, DeCamp Construction and Reside Kaua‘i.
Elizabeth Doyle manages Hanalei Center, and said most of the businesses that have reopened have hours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Yellowfish Trading Company, Jewel of Paradise, Sand People, Hula Beach, Havaiki, Rider Physical Therapy, Hanalei Dental, Hanalei Surf Company and Rip Curl.
Hanalei Bay Massage opens today.
Hanalei Bread Company and Harvest Market are open at Hanalei Center as well.
Monique Rowan is a lifelong North Shore resident who lives in Wainiha and writes periodically for The Garden Island.