Kmart closes its doors on Maui

A sign inside the Kmart on Dairy Road in Kahului indicates the store’s final day of business Sunday. Dozens of loyal shoppers came in to snag some last-minute deals. Many said they were sad to bid farewell to Kmart, which was the first big-box store to open on Maui. The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

KAHULUI — Kmart’s last day of business on Maui drew many loyal customers for the same reason it always has over the past two decades: all the great deals.

“I think we’re still shopping like the store isn’t closing,” Paia resident Blair Wright said Sunday. “We’re buying things that we think we need, but that we don’t need. But we buy it because it’s on sale. (The closing is) a sad thing because it was the first (big) box store on the island.”

Kmart closed to the public Sunday, though workers will continue to clear out the building, said a manager who declined to be identified.

“From all the associates, we just want to thank the community for supporting us all these years,” the manager said Sunday. “We had tears with some longtime members today.”

The store’s closure was announced in March, and Kmart has been holding a liquidation sale. Around midday Sunday, dozens of shoppers were still browsing the aisles. While most of the store was empty, shoppers still had a varied selection of clothes, shoes, books, toys and other miscellaneous items to choose from. Meanwhile, an employee announced discounted items like water heaters and shelves over the loudspeaker.

Wailuku resident and frequent Kmart shopper Leslie Carvalho pushes a cart loaded with items through the store Sunday. “No more Kmart, no more cheap stuff at local price,” Carvalho said. The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

Chad and Pattee Quisisem of Kahului had three cartfuls of plates, books, Chia Pets and all kinds of gift items, but they still planned to come back for another round.

“It’s unfortunate,” Chad Quisisem said of the store’s closing. “We got a lot of deals out of it. We probably won’t have to shop for Black Friday.”

Coming from Paia, Senaida Flores said she liked Kmart because she could reach it the fastest on her way into town. She came about four times a week for the friendly service, good deals and Little Caesar’s Pizza that occupied a corner of Kmart.

“I’m kind of sad because it’s been here longest out of all the stores,” Flores said. “I’m sad to see it go.”

Kmart was the first big-box store on Maui when it opened in April 1993. Costco came in 1995, followed by Walmart in 2001 and Target in 2015. A manager who declined to be identified said in March that sales at the Maui location had dropped significantly since the arrival of Target.

Shyann Lazo of Kahului hunts for deals with nieces Chylee Tacang, 8, Lili‘a Sipe-Catiel, 3, and Olena Sipe-Catiel, 6, in Kmart on Sunday. The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

Pukalani resident Gina Duncan said she remembered the day Kmart opened its doors.

“It was so exciting for the community to have so much choice,” Duncan said. “And of course we’re going to miss Little Caesar’s. You can’t go wrong with those stuffed breadsticks.”

Duncan said she was preparing for hurricane season by stocking up on bags of dog food for her pets. The bags normally sell for $12.99 at Safeway but were selling for a dollar at Kmart. She was also buying gifts for a nephew who’s about to become a father.

“I hope they put something nice in this space,” Duncan said. “The whole community is wishing for a bowling alley. . . . Or maybe a roller skating rink. Something that will provide activities, especially for young people.”

Many employees declined to be interviewed Sunday, but employee Gloria Lemus said that her co-workers had become like family and that she was excited to come to work every day.

Maui’s only Kmart store opened on Dairy Road in April 1993. Kmart’s parent company, Sears Holding Corp., has been shuttering Sears and Kmart locations all over the country. In March, one of two Kmart stores on Oahu closed down. The Maui News / COLLEEN UECHI photo

“Everybody is so friendly,” she said. “I love it. And the prices are so good.”

Lemus has worked at Kmart for seven years and plans to look for a job cleaning houses.

Officials with Sears Holdings Corp., the parent company of Kmart, said in March that the store’s 125 workers may apply for open positions at Sears or other Kmart stores in Hawaii, and those eligible will receive severance pay.

The three remaining Kmart stores in Hawaii are located in Lihue, Kailua-Kona and Kapolei on Oahu. In March, the Kmart on Salt Lake Boulevard in Honolulu closed down.

Sears Holdings has been shuttering Sears and Kmart locations all over the country. In September, the company said it would close 64 Kmart stores in 28 states, followed by announcements in December and January that 108 more Kmarts would fold. The Associated Press reported in March that the company has lost $10.4 billion since 2011, the last year that it made a profit.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.


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