Kahului Florist is moving

KAHULUI – After more than 40 years at Maui Mall, original tenant Kahului Florist will be moving to a new location on Dairy Road later this month.

The new site will include room for a warehouse, “instead of the warehouse being at my house,” said delighted co-owner Natalie Nishimura on Thursday at the Maui Mall shop, which doesn’t have enough storage space.

For decades, residents have called Kahului Florist when they need flowers for a birthday, anniversary, funeral or other event.

Kahului Florist opened with the Maui Mall back in 1973. The florist moved a block down Kaahumanu Avenue from the old Kahului Shopping Center, along with Tasaka Guri Guri and a few other businesses.

Tasaka family members confirmed Thursday that their iconic sherbert shop is not moving.

Kahului Florist’s last day at the mall is Thursday. Its refrigerators already have been removed, as well as the sinks and cabinets. But the work of making floral arrangements continues. Cut flowers still were for sale and deliveries were going out this week.

Kahului Florist will open at its new location – 201 Dairy Road, next to Tamura’s Fine Wine and Liquors – on Aug. 29. The florist will continue to offer the same services and will be adding new products, Nishimura said.

The longtime family-owned florist is the second original tenant in less than a year to vacate its spot at the Maui Mall. At the end of December, The Pet Shop moved to another Kahului location.

The Pet Shop’s John Guard cited lower rent and better customer parking as reasons for the move. Recent upgrades to the Maui Mall had removed parking that had served the florist and the pet store and blocked their street visibility.

“We felt it was time for a change,” Nishimura said. “A little bit of everything” prompted the move, she said.

The florist’s lease was expiring, and negotiations began last year with the mall’s previous owners, a partnership of Alberta Development Partners of Denver and an affiliate of Walton Street Capital LLC of Chicago, and continued in January with new owner Jones Lang LaSalle Income Property Trust.

The florist and the mall owners were far apart in lease talks, so the family decided to look for a new location outside of the mall, Nishimura said.

“Everyone prayed we find the perfect (spot) and we did,” she said. The new location “was like it was meant to be.”

The florist’s new home remains in a central location. The opening of the Airport Access Road has reduced traffic on Dairy Road, which will make entering and departing the new site easier and safer, she said.

All nine staff members, including three family members, will be relocating with the business.

Nishimura had no ill will toward the mall, which has been accommodating.

A mall spokeswoman could not immediately confirm if a new tenant had been found for the florist shop spot. The mall has undergone a change in the mix of its stores, most recently announcing the opening of Da Shrimp Hale next to Baskin Robbins.

Leaving the mall has brought some sadness to the staff. Initially, the business was in the same row of shops as Tasaka and The Pet Shop. When The Pet Shop wanted to expand 10 years ago, Kahului Florist moved to its current site, still in the vicinity of Tasaka, and next to Subway.

“We’re going to miss Tasaka. We are going to miss Subway. They’ve been our neighbors for a long time,” Nishimura said, adding that the businesses looked out for each another.

Still, “change is bound to happen,” she said.

Doris Nishimura, Natalie Nishimura’s mother, brought family into the floral business, and has seen lots of changes through the years.

The Nishimura family owned a meat market at the Kahului Shopping Center and the florist was in the back. It was owned by two sisters with the last names Fujimoto and Tamura, the Nishimuras said. Doris Nishimura was invited to join the business when Fujimoto retired in the early 1960s.

Doris Nishimura later took over the entire business when the other sister retired. The Nishimura family has held an ownership interest in Kahului Florist for 54 years.

Prior to joining Kahului Florist, Doris Nishimura had no experience in the flower business.

“She learned on the job. She did wonderful,” said Natalie Nishimura.

The business has changed over the decades. Funeral wreaths used to be made from scratch in the days before styrofoam circles. Lumber was cut by Doris’ husband, Harold, who also gathered banana leaves with son Mel to wrap the wreaths. The two men have since passed.

There weren’t a lot of vases, so cans were cut and wrapped in foil to hold flowers, Doris Nishimura remembers.

While the women say they love their jobs, they admit it is hard work.

“She never went to a Mother’s Day lunch,” Natalie Nishimura said of her mother.

Family members told Doris Nishimura’s four granddaughters to get a college education and not work at the florist, so they could spend time with their families. Two of her granddaughters, who still live on Maui, and their husbands take vacations from their day jobs to help the family during busy times, such as Valentine’s and Mother’s days and Christmas.

“That’s why we can survive, we have the family,” said Natalie Nishimura.

Natalie Nishimura co-owns the business with her sister, Kathy Tokumoto, and Kathy’s husband, Wayne, who serves as manager.

The new store hours hours will be from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will be closed on Sundays.

The phone number will remain the same, 877-3951.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.