North Shore businesses remain open with local support

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    A sign asking for kokua for Hanalei merchants graces the entrance to Ching Young Village Shopping Center in Hanalei recently.

HANALEI — Ching Young Village Shopping Center’s general manager is doing everything he can to keep his tenants’ businesses from closing during this pandemic.

“Basically on a case by case, we are offering some discounted rates to our tenants that have a tougher time than others, especially the ones that are mostly tourism-based, giving them an opportunity,” General Manager Larry Harper said. “In some cases, we’re doing some deferred payments for some of the tenants.”

Since the pandemic began, the mall lost up to 75% overall in profit, Harper said. And after the tourist industry reopened last October for a month, Harper said his tenants experienced an increase in sales.

“It was a great surge,” Harper said.

Although tenants’ rent is getting deferred, Harper said they try not to offer too many deferred payment options.

“Because it’s going to be that much harder for them later,” Harper said. “To be able to come up with the money later, you know, (it) just piles up. We are trying to just keep it in the range that they’re able to stay in business and keep going. It’s worked out well. We haven’t lost any tenants yet.”

Melanie Kuebler has been the owner of Spinning Dolphin Designs for 27 years at Ching Young Village and is thankful to Harper and the team.

“I’m very grateful,” Kuebler said. “They helped me out tremendously after my husband died ten years ago, now it’s just me. Lately, it’s been tough. I mean, yesterday, I had like, two people come in. The day before, I might have had three. And then I’ve gone like 10 days and made $95 in 10 days. That’s tough. It’s bad.”

Kuebler said her shop is a screen-print business that is opened to everyone and she offers kama‘aina and military discounts.

“There’s a bunch of designs done by us or local artists,” Kuebler said. “And over the years, we have them all up on the wall, and the tourists come in and they select the design and then tell me if they want it on a T-shirt or a tank top shirt and then we just silkscreen it while they walk around. We just print it up, it takes about 60 seconds for the ink to dry.”

Meanwhile, Matt Ernsdorf, owner of The Bistro and the Palate Wine Bar &Restaurant in Kilauea in the Historic Kong Lung Market, has been hit hard but remains open due to the support of the locals.

“Before COVID-19, The Bistro was right around 10% net sales, the wine bar was right around 11%, and the store was right around 4%,” Ernsdorf said. “So I would say my profits right now are probably zero. My sales were down 40% across the board for me. We get a lot of locals coming in though.”

According to Ernsdorf, when the tourist industry opened for a moment last year, he did get a small increase in sales, however, he also faced a lot of hate comments because he didn’t allow anyone into any of his businesses unless they did the required 14-day quarantine mandated by the state in October of last year.

“And we got a lot of international press over it,” Ernsdorf said. “Crazy people got really mad. I got a lot of hate mail, a massive amount. I probably gained 1,000 new customers. We had people driving over from the Westside guys coming up all the time from the Eastside.”

Ernsdorf said although the tourist didn’t understand why he was adamant about following government mandates, he said the locals were very supportive and he appreciates the love.

“Mahalo because I wouldn’t be here, you know, I’m not making money, but it’s all about keeping my staff,” Ernsdorf said. “They’re super grateful because they have a job. They’re surviving. You know, for them. It means the world.”

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Stephanie Shinno, features, education, business, and community reporter can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

1 Comments
  1. I saw a Vampire once February 7, 2021 10:41 pm Reply

    75% business list is a lot. Usually there are tourist shopping. Since March 2020, tourism has dropped off. No tourist. And that goes for any part of the island. Pretty much slow everywhere else. 23.8% hotel occupancy in hotel rooms in December 2020 filled. Not a lot. I think it will continue. Low occupancy in hotels.


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