Making ends meet

  • Contributed

    Paco’s Tacos’ Chef Cesar Jr. Aguilar, Luis Lopez, and Aldy Rodriguez are unloading their goods at Kiahuna Golf Course.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    TJ Variety Store’s banner at the register is clear as the day was. Contributed Chef Cesar Jr Aguilar of Paco’s Tacos at Kiahuna Golf Course stands with owner and uncle Antonio Aguilar. Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island Jeff Dasalla and Ronald Alicante unload the goods they just received from Young Brothers.

  • Contributed

    Chef Cesar Jr Aguilar of Paco’s Tacos at Kiahuna Golf Course stands with owner and uncle Antonio Aguilar.

  • Stephanie Shinno / The Garden Island

    Jeff Dasalla and Ronald Alicante unload the goods they just received from Young Brothers.

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 sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

4 Comments
  1. Citizen Cane August 19, 2020 2:51 am Reply

    YB’s Kauai operations have over the years been one of the worst run businesses on this island, and judging by this outrageous increase the whole company’s obviously in the same shape. Not many businesses could foist such increases on their customers without disastrous consequences—but with the PUC to hide behind those consequences will now be visited upon local businesses. Another example of pushing it off on the backs of Hawaii’s businesses! Well it’s a huge red flag and PUC should not be allowed to sanction such an increase without an investigation into both the fiscal practices and operations of YB—and while their at it the union. Or perhaps the PUC itself should be subject to some oversight in the matter. This is where our leadership needs to step up and ask the tough questions. And by that I mean our elected representatives.


  2. manawai August 19, 2020 8:04 am Reply

    And the merchant’s higher costs must be passed on to you the consumer or the business will close. This is a perfect example of why Hawaii should be exempted from the Jones Act which would bring us more competition in the shipping industry and through competitive pricing will help to lower the price of everything we buy and Hawaii’s high cost of living. But I guess if you’re rich, who cares, ya?


  3. Rev Dr Malama August 19, 2020 8:58 am Reply

    So the legislature denies the Private Shipping Company a rate increase and bailouts…..
    How does PUC have the authority to circumvent the government????
    Oh, We forget that we are controlled by unlawful occupation and illegal shipping laws…..
    Education is key….
    HAWAIIANKINGDOM.ORG


  4. LMat August 19, 2020 9:24 am Reply

    Make the salaries of YB executives and employees public. Forcing a 46% rate increase down our throats is ludicrous, especially if part of that is gonna go towards maintaining outrageous executive salaries.


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