HONOLULU (KHON2) — Haleiwa was a ghost town throughout most of 2020.
Several businesses described it as “scary” and “apocalyptic.”
“It was literally a ghost town,” explained Michelle Ching, owner of Farm to Barn in Haleiwa town. “I mean every 15 minutes there might be a couple cars driving by and it was such a shock to me but to the whole town, I mean you try and drive through Haleiwa now and you’re going to sit in traffic for 45 minutes, but last summer we really depended on our local community and local traffic to come through but it felt like we were in an apocalypse or something.”
She said business post-pandemic has been extremely busy, but she said it has been a challenge. “We lost a lot of staff last year and we are looking for new staff but post-pandemic I think people are trying to get used to normalcy again, so we’re kind of having struggles and challenges finding people to hire,” she said.
“I did have faith and confidence that business was going to hold up through the pandemic but I definitely didn’t think we were going to be this busy so quickly,” she added.
She said she can’t extend her hours of operation with limited staff and so much demand.
Haleiwa businesses said they were able to survive 2020 with the help of the local community.
“The reason we survived 2020 was because of the locals there’s no doubt,” said Stacy Lieser, who has been a manager at Cholo’s Homestyle Mexican for 16 years. “We did not anticipate 2021 to go the way that it’s going, we are very much so grateful.”
“It’s exciting to see Haleiwa alive again, and to see it where we all knew it to be, it feels good because it was getting a little scary,” explained Delys Okuyama, Kula Shave Ice owner.
Okuyama opened her business weeks before the world came to a halt and was in tears this past Christmas when KHON2 interviewed her because she was unsure of what the future had in store.
Okuyama said she stayed positive when business started picking up and she was able to expand and build a bigger truck, which she re-opened over the week of Monday, June 7.
“We’ve had another record day our first day being re-opened, so we’re just extremely thankful and blessed to be here, six months later and definitely on a positive note,” she said.
The sudden influx of people caught many businesses by surprise.
“Right now, we’re definitely seeing business busier than pre-covid which is so wild to even think we could even be in a position thinking back a year ago to being where we’re at right now, there is no question about it, it is booming in Haleiwa,” Lieser added.
“It’s just been an explosion of traffic,” Ching said. “So definitely busier, I think, than pre-pandemic.”
Across town, wait times at restaurants average anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours and ocean tours are also booked.
“Now that everyone is here, and everyone is being safe and having a good time, everybody wants to be out on the ocean,” said Kevin Wilson, owner of Ocean Outfitters out of Haleiwa Harbor.
He said months ago that he was averaging one tour daily. He is now averaging three to five.
Haleiwa businesses are also preparing to be even busier in July once the only resort on Oahu’s North Shore re-opens again since early 2020.
“I anticipate there will be a lot more pressure on our town businesses to have their restaurants staffed, the retail store staffed more than usual and that’s the big challenge finding those reliable employees that will stick it out,” explained Roxana Jimenez, North Shore Chamber of Commerce.
Haleiwa is also celebrating 100 years of the Anahulu Bridge during the week of Monday, June 14.