LIHU‘E– Kaua‘i business owners who receive their goods weekly through Young Brothers shipping company are bracing themselves as Hawaii Public Utilities Commission announced on Monday their approval of Young Brothers’ emergency request to increase rates by 46% over the next 12 months.
One of those people is Patricia Alicante, owner of TJ Variety Store in Lihu‘e, who was at the Young Brother’s portion of the shipping yard on Waapa Road on Tuesday, picking up three pallets of Filipino goods for the store.
Every week Alicante picks up three pallets of goods shipped from Honolulu and spends about $300. Supplying the entire store if her shelves are empty requires ordering from the mainland — that increases the cost to between $800 and $1,000 per pallet, Alicante said.
But that was before Young Brothers’ rate increase request was approved.
“I been in business for 20 years,” said Alicante, pointing out minimum shipping charges have risen substantially in that timeframe. “I will have to tell my customers again, that the price will increase. We are a small business, not like Wal-Mart who gets the cheaper price (on orders and shipping).”
Alicante said she knows the rate increases and passed on increase in prices will be tough for Kauai residents; a lot of her customers are already facing financial stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s hard, we cannot do anything about it,” said Alicante. “That’s life, we just go with the flow.”
Also picking up supplies from Young Brothers on Tuesday was Antonio Aguilar, of Paco’s Tacos, who said he was shocked when he heard the news about rate increases.
“It’s pretty bad, I just saw it,” said Aguilar. “I get five pallets every week from the mainland, and I am paying $360 per week. With the increase, I will have to pay close to $500 and up per week.”
Aguilar owns four restaurants on Kaua‘i, and has expanded to Honolulu. The news of the increased rates has not discouraged him.
“We have to do what we need to do. It is what it is,” said Aguilar, echoing Alicante. “We are a local business and we are grateful for the locals that support us.”
Aguilar said if his restaurants didn’t have the residents of Kaua‘i and O‘ahu as his regular customers, he doesn’t know where they would be right now.
Fortunately, Aguilar is able to maintain his five restaurants and is looking to open a Mexican Bakery in Lihu‘e, in the near future.
“We just have to hang in there, this is our new life,” said Aguilar.
Mark Perriello, President &CEO at Kauai Chamber of Commerce wasn’t pleased to hear about the Tuesday rate increase decision and said in a statement to The Garden Island that really feels for the business owners of Kaua‘i.
“This is an outrageous rate increase at a time when many of our businesses are on the brink of closing due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis,” said Perriello. He also expressed hope that the rate increase is not yet set in stone.
“The Public Utilities Commission, Young Brothers, and other state leaders should continue to dialogue until they identify viable alternative solutions because a 46 percent rate increase is not a realist long term solution,” said Perriello.
Stephanie Shinno, community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.