Some Maui retailers re-open for business


Maui County retailers were given the green light to re-open on Monday, however, many decided to remain closed.

Retail Merchants of Hawaii president Tina Yamaki said it’s up to the businesses to decide if they are ready to do so.

“For some of them we didn’t get enough time to open up,” she said.

Kauai and certain Hawaii Island retailers were given the okay to re-open last week.

“They may have the supplies but it’s looking for that steady supply that comes in because if you have hand sanitizer and you’re using masks, it’s going to run out fast so they want to make sure they have a supply,” she explained.

Nuage Bleu in Paia was one of the stores that re-opened on Monday. The store manager said they were able to secure supplies back in March.

“We were able to stock up in early March for cleaning supplies,” said Jessica Yeoman, Nuage Bleu and Bleu Room manager.

“We made our own hand sanitizer because Maui Brewing Company sells ethanol alcohol so we’re able to make our own. Basically, we have the hand sanitizer stations when people walk-in and they can either sanitize or use our wash sink and they wear their face masks,” she said,

She said they are also limiting the amount of people into their store to four.

She said she doesn’t expect business to be booming right away, mostly because Paia is a heavily-dependent tourism shopping town. She said her business was about 85% tourists.  

“It’s like a ghost town,” she said.

Back in March when non-essential businesses were ordered to close down, two stores in Paia were broken into.

“So, everyone put up plywood sheets and Paia was boarded up,” she said.

“We’re open and I think another store is starting to remove their boards but there’s not much action in Paia,” Yeoman said.

“There’s so many questions and that’s the hardest part with a business you plan, you look forward to the future, and we can’t plan on anything we have two months of clothes and jewelry that we had to put a hold on so no incoming product and that’s just continuing to back up,” she explained.

She said the store will stay open for a week and see what happens.

“The staff are excited to come back to work but they had to get off unemployment and they get hourly plus commission and if sales are low I mean that’s not enough money to support what they need living here on Maui,” she said.

“A lot of people are debating if they can re-open,” explained Yamaki.  “You have a lot more expenses now with the hand sanitizer, and all the personal protective equipment for your employees and customers and some are two months back in their rent or leases with no income coming in and it’s hard to pay your bills.”

She said most stores will do a small opening to see how many customers come in and what business will be like.  

Carrie Gebb, owner of Driftwood Maui in Makawao, re-opened on Monday too.

“It feels weird, the town is dead we’ve had a few people pop in but for the most part it’s like a ghost town,” she said.

“It’s a little scary thinking this is our future.”

She said she still owes rent even though she’s been closed for over a month.

She did have a few customers on Monday who all complied and wore face masks inside the store. She said they were happy to be shopping somewhere new other than the essential stores that remained open.

“They missed us, and we missed them. They were super excited for us to be open and everyone this morning was just grateful to have somewhere to go other than home,” Gebb said.  

She hopes things can get back to normal soon.

“I can’t imagine that in two months we’re going to be in a position we need to be in to continue to have all of our employees and usual inventory,” she said. “I’m taking it day by day and I’m going to let the next two months play out and kind of see where we’re at after that.”

“It’s going to be a slow start we believe,” Yamaki said.

She added that most stores might not re-open until late June or until tourism comes back.

Shopping centers have also re-opened but it is up to the individual store whether they’re ready to re-open or not.

Yamaki said for national retail stores, it will be up to corporate whether they think a particular store should re-open or not.

The Shops at Wailea said they will be following new CDC guidance. Including:

  • Security officers and employees are in place to actively remind and encourage shoppers to maintain a proper distance from others and to refrain from shopping in groups;
  • Common area seating has been temporarily removed to encourage social distancing;
  • Hand sanitizing stations will be installed throughout Center to include at Upper/Lower elevator, top and bottom of each escalator and other strategic locations throughout the Center;
  • Escalator rails and elevator buttons are sanitized hourly;
  • Signage will placed throughout the property requesting shoppers to wear face coverings in public;
  • Floor marking signage will be installed to instruct customers to allow for physical distancing while walking;
  • All TSAW vendors and staff are required to self-monitor their health and wellness and are required NOT to come to work if ill or with COVID-10 symptoms.

The Shops at Wailea has also reduced their operating hours to Mon-Sat 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

Yamaki gave advice for Oahu retailers planning on re-opening on Friday, May 15.

“Number one can you afford to reopen? And be very aware of all the things you need to re-ope. It’s not just cleaning and spraying Lysol. Its other things you need to maintain to make sure you have a safe environment for everybody to come in,” she said.

For a list of new guidance to follow when re-opening, click here.

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