Small businesses try to stay afloat during pandemic


More small businesses are temporarily closing their doors due to Governor Ige’s ‘Stay at home, work from home,’ mandate, which also requires non-essential businesses to close.

With non-essential businesses ordered to close, popular shopping towns like Haleiwa, Hanalei and Kaimuki are now ghost towns.

Koral McCarthy owns the Ohana Shop in Hanalei, Kauai.

She tells KHON2 that she closed her doors on March 16, a few days before the governor issued his mandate, after she saw what was happening on the mainland. 

“We missed a couple of days of sales when tourists were still here, but that could have been key moments of spread so we closed before that,” she said.

She decided to bring her store to her home.

She points to a dozen of lauhala hats hanging on her wall.

“I brought home a ton of inventory from the shop and daily we’re bringing stuff home from the store. This is the bulk of our store and online supply of lauhala hats and we’re bringing home accessories and clothing daily,” she explained.

She’s been utilizing Instagram and her online shop to make ends meet.

“We have a big sale, our entire online store is on sale until tonight, and we’ll continue to do flash sales every day just to get people motivated, if they have the funding to support small businesses, and we also try to send people to our friend’s stores as well,” she explained.  

If the timeline on non-essential store closures is extended, she said she’ll look into SBA funding and will utilize the time by building her online store, inventory, and organizing her entire store.

She suggests other retail businesses get online, start a website, or an Instagram page to stay afloat.

Even essential businesses like restaurants are struggling to stay open.

Many restaurants that were open last week are now closed.

Last Sunday, KHON2 spoke with Koko Head Café in Kaimuki. The General Manager, Justin Young, explained how difficult it was to lay off most of his staff.

The popular restaurant adjusted to switching to take-out, and even offered delivery and curb-side pick up. Unfortunately, he said business was down 50-70%.

The restaurant closed its doors on Saturday indefinitely.

Essential businesses like grocery stores are still doing well.

Celestial Natural Foods in Haleiwa is just one small store that’s making a big difference to ensure the safety of their staff and customers.

Last week, the store began limiting the number of people allowed inside at a time. The store also requires every customer to sanitize their hands before walking in with a hand sanitizer they created.

“We want employees to feel safe because if they don’t feel safe, they won’t want to come to work and then we can’t stay open and provide our customers with service,” said Melody Allen, whose family owns the store.

Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants Hawaii, said small business owners should look at for helpful resources and information.

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