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Barnes & Noble to stay for now

New lease is not long term as company explores other options

Barnes & Noble in the Lahaina Gateway Center will not be closing at the end of the year as had been planned, reported the store’s manager Cindy Mauricio on Wednesday.

“We are not foreseen to close. We are back in business,” said Mauricio, who was overjoyed after just hearing the news from her district manager late Wednesday afternoon.

There was a reported difficultly between the bookstore and center management on a new lease that surfaced last week. Mauricio did not know the lease terms but said she was halting all of her closing processes for now.

“It won’t be happening. I’m very, very, blessed,” she told The Maui News.

However, the mother of Hannah Sheveland, 15, who started an online petition to save Barnes & Noble, said they received an email from Barnes & Noble’s corporate real estate division saying that the lease was not long term and that the company was exploring other options for Maui.

Wendy Laurel-Sheveland said people should not let their guards down.

“(But) I think they are feeling the pressure,” she said of Barnes & Noble and the center. “Hannah is getting a lot of momentum now, I wouldn’t want us to celebrate too soon.”

Barnes & Noble, which has only two stores in Hawaii, is the only remaining bookstore specializing in new books and magazines on Maui. Another major bookstore on Maui, Borders Music & Cafe at the Maui Marketplace in Kahului, closed in 2011 when the national bookstore chain filed for bankruptcy.

News broke last week of the Lahaina store’s closing at the end of the year over difficulties renewing the lease. Barnes & Noble said that sales on Maui have been good and that it didn’t plan to shut down and leave. But the company acknowledged that it was unable to come to an agreement on a new lease with Lahaina Gateway Center.

“We had no intention of leaving the Lahaina Gateway Center. That decision rests solely with the landlord,” said Jim Lampassi, vice president of real estate development for Barnes & Noble, on Monday. “Maui is a strong market for Barnes & Noble, and we have every intention of reopening there.”

The management company for the center claimed it was Barnes & Noble that chose not to stay. Sandra Brown of The Festival Cos., property manager for the center, said that Barnes & Noble chose not to renew its lease, to negotiate or to pursue a long-term lease.

Brown could not immediately be reached for comment on Mauricio’s announcement Wednesday.

Maui County real property tax records show that the 11.4-acre parcel is owned by Lahaina Gateway Commercial LLC and leased to DOF IV Lahaina LLC. DOF IV Lahaina is an affiliate of New York-based Torchlight Investors, which acquired the center in a short sale in 2013.

(A story on Page A1 that continued to Page A2 Tuesday gave an incorrect owner for the center.)

Mauricio said she thinks that management for both Barnes & Noble and the center heard the community’s cries to keep the store open.

“I think this was an amazing community effort,” said Mauricio, whose bookstore has 35 workers.

Sheveland said she had heard about the lease negotiations and called the store Wednesday to confirm that a lease had been signed. As of late Wednesday afternoon, her petition had 2,800 signatures, 1,800 more than Monday. She originally had sought only 100 signatures.

The petition can be found at change.org; search for “Keep Barnes and Noble in Lahaina Open!”

Many customers and others have stopped Mauricio to ask about the store and to express their unhappiness about the closure.

“I’m just so happy Maui is Maui,” she said. “The community pulled together. They made this happen.”

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