Barnes & Noble turns the page to Maui Marketplace
Move to Kahului is bittersweet for some, exciting for others
KAHULUI — In the 10 years that manager Cindy Mauricio has worked for Barnes & Noble, customers have constantly tried to convince her to bring the store to Kahului.
Their wish became reality Monday when Barnes & Noble opened its new, temporary location at the Maui Marketplace — a bittersweet move for employees and West Maui customers but exciting for Central, South and Upcountry Maui residents who are looking forward to the shorter drive.
“At first, I was reluctant, but I know we’re going to be very successful here,” Mauricio said. “My whole career with Barnes & Noble, everyone said, ‘You should come to Kahului.’ . . . I really do feel the community is going to support the local bookstore.”
About 30 to 40 people were waiting outside during the Monday morning blessing, including Lahaina regulars who drove in to support the store, Mauricio said.
“They were upset initially,” she said. “Central gets everything. I heard that a lot. They have Costco. They have Walmart. They have Target. We had Barnes & Noble. I said, ‘Well, we’re still on the island, and that’s where I’m grateful.’ “
Barnes & Noble opened at the Lahaina Gateway Center 10 years ago and has been the island’s only branch. In October, company officials said the Lahaina location would close at the end of 2017 due to a lease renewal dispute. At the time, the company had no plans to relocate on Maui. Customers rallied to save the store; Seabury Hall sophomore Hannah Sheveland started a change.org petition that has since been signed by nearly 3,500 people.
Just days after the news that the store would be shutting down, Barnes & Noble officials decided to keep the store open after all. In January, the company announced that it would be moving to Kahului once its lease at the center expired. Now, the company is subleasing from Petco, the former occupant of the space next to Old Navy at the Maui Marketplace. Mauricio said the goal is to find a more permanent location in Central Maui, though she’s not sure when that might happen.
The temporary location is smaller — 11,000 square feet as compared to the 24,000-square-foot Lahaina store. It no longer has a cafe or music section but does offer LPs. Mauricio said the company is “definitely interested in having a cafe” in a future location. For now, Starbucks is just across the parking lot, and the new store reminds local customers of when Borders Music & Cafe had a branch in the same complex.
“I really missed them when they closed,” Olinda resident Tia Lee said. “There’s nothing like books. Even though you can go online and stuff, there’s nothing like books.”
Lee said it was “a hassle” to drive to Lahaina, and she was “thrilled” to have Barnes & Noble in a closer location.
Rollene Billings of Kihei also said the drive to the bookstore would be easier now.
“It’s so nice to have it so close,” Billings said. “There’s so much knowledge in here. I’ve been here for hours. I’m just extremely happy we have a bookstore. Every community needs one.”
The tone was sadder among customers and employees on the bookstore’s last day in Lahaina on Sunday. Bookseller Lisa Fujiyama said that the store was “kind of a madhouse” as customers hurried in for last-minute sales.
“I’m so sad,” said Fujiyama, who worked at the Lahaina location for nine years. “I was going to follow (to Kahului) but I had to find another job. Both my husband and I are like, ‘What are we going to do? We don’t drink (alcohol). We just drink coffee. What are we going to do on date nights?’ “
Fujiyama said she got an office job in Lahaina, which will keep her closer to home. She said West Maui residents were “very upset” to see the store go.
“It’s not just reading books,” she said. “There’s a cafe, and it’s an ‘everybody knows their name’ kind of place. It’s really going to be missed.”
Mauricio said she had about 45 employees at the Lahaina store and now has about 30 in Kahului. She said 10 Lahaina employees made the transition to Central Maui. Workers who lost their jobs were given severance packages.
Merchandise manager Jordan Valenzuela was among those who moved with the store. Valenzuela has worked for Barnes & Noble since 2008, when she was 18 years old. She said the long drive from her home in Kaanapali is “worth it,” because she loves working for Barnes & Noble and has “literally grown up with all of these employees.”
“It’s exciting but it’s also really sad that Lahaina’s losing this,” Valenzuela said. “I try and stay positive and say this is a new experience. Everyone on this side is going to have a great place to come and browse, and we’re going to have a new customer base, and that’s exciting. I’ve gotten so many hugs from strangers today.”
Barnes & Noble is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.