Ports open but items missing from store shelves

Barge on the way, but no Costco chicken

Costco’s famous rotisserie chicken, bottled water, D-cell batteries and flashlights were missing from the big-box store’s inventory Monday because island shipping ports closed for several days last week as the state prepared for Hurricane Lane. 

“That’s a big one,” said Manager Tony Facemire of the missing cooked-on-site chicken. 

Normally Costco receives two deliveries of chicken a week. Last week it only received one. On Sunday the store ran out. “I don’t have any to cook,” Facemire said Monday afternoon.

The store is also out of several types of organic chicken, along with lanterns and generators, which were bought up in the pre-storm rush.

Hawaii ports opened on Saturday after most closed last week. At least one Young Brothers barge was en route from Honolulu to Kahului Harbor on Monday and expected today. But Facemire said it may take until Wednesday before the missing items are again available at Costco.

He said that after the containers arrive at the harbor, crews need to retrieve them from the dock. It then takes time to unload once they’re at the store.

“Our plan is to work overnight (tonight) into Wednesday night” to get the shelves stocked, he said.

Kula Produce, which services supermarkets and hotels, is in a similar situation. Marketing Director Tish Uyehara said some produce, including lettuce and citrus fruits, may be sparse until the end of the week until shipping picks up again.

Uyehara, who works for Armstrong Produce on Oahu, which does business on Maui as Kula Produce, said items were ordered last week, but because ships were not allowed into port, the produce was delayed.

Uyehara expected a shipment from Honolulu to depart today and arrive Wednesday afternoon. Armstrong sent a shipment of produce to Maui on Monday by air.

The company was giving its customers at least some of what they ordered, but was rationing it so that all customers would receive at least some of their order before shipping could catch up later this week.

Local produce may also be sparse as local farmers deal with wind and insect damage, Uyehara said.

A spokesperson for Young Brothers could not be reached for comment on Monday, but news releases over the weekend said that the shipping company was responding to the request of Hawaiian Electric Co. to immediately transport several utility poles to Maui, as part of the utility’s response to the fire in Lahaina.

Overall, Young Brothers said priority loading on all barges will be given to emergency and medical supplies, public safety, and utility vehicles and essential cargo.

Young Brothers said its regularly scheduled barge will arrive on Lanai and Molokai on Thursday.

For more information see www.youngbrothershawaii.com for updates.

Walmart spokeswoman Tara Aston acknowledged that water, batteries and flashlights scooped up in the preparation rush may hard to find in Kahului.

But she said the store expects a delivery today and expects more items during the week.

Nelson Okumura, president and chief executive officer of Valley Isle Produce, doing business as VIP Foodservice and Island Grocery Depot, said he didn’t have any shortages, other than bottled water, bought up by customers preparing for the storm. VIP Foodservice supplies resorts, restaurants, grocery stores, schools and health care facilities.

On Monday, he said it was hard to tell what the impact would be, since he didn’t yet know what grocery items he would receive this week. But he said the company still had many items in stock.

“I think overall for (last week) we came out OK. We were so busy on Wednesday, we made up for the two days we were closed,” Okumura said. The businesses were closed on Thursday and Friday in anticipation of the hurricane.

The Lahaina store on Kupuohi Street was affected by a power outage, but it has a backup generator that kept its freezers going and lights on.

Alec McBarnet, an owner of Maui Oil Co., which delivers fuel to gas stations including Costco, said he didn’t foresee any problems.

“It doesn’t seem to be any issue, because there was very little disruption (at the ports),” he said.

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

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