Fifteen years after closing, the Molokai General Store returned to Kaunakakai yesterday.
The Mikami ‘ohana, which run Molokai Drugs and the Kamoi Snack ‘n’ Go, reopened the 3,800 square-foot store that had been G&M Variety Store and, previous to that, Guy’s. From 1945-1995, Molokai Drugs filled the space with the pharmacy and merchandise that ranged from garden supplies to books to jewelry and pet necessities.
But with the economy on Molokai, and nationwide, suffering through a deep recession, the timing of the opening seems a little puzzling. After all, two Kaunakakai restaurants, Aunty Ruby’s and Subway, have closed in just the last few weeks. So why open a new store now?
“I told my dad (Dave Mikami) he was nuts,” said Kim Mikami Svetin, general manager for the new store, who also holds responsibilities at the Molokai Drug Store and Kamoi. “I don’t need to spend any more time at work, but we had to do something with the space.”
In the six months that the building has been empty, the employees have been busy with extensive renovations and repairs, including putting in new floors and new paint to give it a real new store feeling.
On the second day of business, the store was busy with browsers and buyers, while the friendly staff could be seen answering customer questions. While roaming the store for only a few minutes, a paper shredder, candy, snacks and kids’ clothes were seen getting rung up on the register.
“We listened to our customers,” said Svetin, when deciding what to stock. Svetin even showed a list half a page long of requested items accumulated on just the first day of business. Each month the store plans to bring in new and different merchandise to meet the customer needs. “We got the things that people suggested,” she added. “People wanted more fishing stuff so we got a ton of fishing gear.”
Svetin emphasized that the store is for kama’aina, with more than 95 percent of the customers being local. “This is the stuff we really need, stuff that’s practical,” she said.
Stuff like spear guns, knives, pillows, linens, flashlights, slippers, sporting goods, garden supplies, games, office supplies, and swimwear are just some of the practical items for sale.
While Atlas Lumber (Ace Hardware) and Take’s may carry some of the same items, “it’s going to come down to price,” said Svetin. “Hopefully we will be very competitive price-wise.” For example, a complete set of high-quality bed linens can be purchased for $15.99.
Because the General Store already has established relationships with many of its merchandise vendors, Svetin said that prices will be competitive with those on Oahu for certain items. With some vendors sending Molokai close out items that can no longer be carried in big box stores, residents may actually find some bargains.
The General Store will not carry expensive items like televisions and DVD players. “Really looking at our market, we’re not going to bring in the expensive kitchen supplies like Macy’s or William Sonoma,” said Svetin.
But come late October, Svetin said they will expand the inventory to include Christmas and holiday items. The store will also offer gift wrapping. “We do have some jewelry, we’ll be bringing in nicer items for special occasions.”