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After nearly 50 years, Sears set to close for good

Department store was Ka‘ahumanu Center original tenant

Sears at the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center will be closing Nov. 14. The store was one of the original tenants in the mall which opened in 1972. — The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo

KAHULUI — After nearly a half century, Sears department store, one of the original tenants of Queen Ka’ahumanu Center, is closing its doors. 

The Kahului retailer, which has begun to sell off inventory with markdown sales, is expected to shutter operations Nov. 14, according to a statement from Transformco, the company that was created in 2019 to purchase the assets of Sears Holding Corp. Sears was among the first tenants of Ka’ahumanu Center when it opened in 1972.

Transformco said it plans to close the store to “redevelop and reinvigorate the property,” with details of the redevelopment announced as plans are finalized. 

“With redevelopment of this location focused primarily on retail use, we intend to reinvigorate and maximize the value of the real estate while enhancing the consumer experience with popular retailers that meet the evolving needs of Kahului-Maui,” said Scott Carr, president of Real Estate for Transformco. 

The company added that its forward strategy for Sears and Kmart is to operate a “diversified portfolio” made up of a small number of large, premier stores with a larger number of small format stores — combined with its “Shop Your Way” rewards program, sears.com online marketplace and buy online, pick up in store capabilities. 

Sears Holding Corporation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 15, 2018. Prior to that announcement, Sears Holdings was already closing Sears and Kmart stores nationwide. Maui’s Kmart next to Costco closed in June 2017. 

The closure of the Maui Sears store is one of the last of its kind in the state. There are two remaining specialty Sears stores in the state. One on Oahu, called Sears Appliance & Mattress at Ala Moana, according to Sears’ website and a Sears Home Appliance Showroom in Kailua-Kona on Hawaii island.

The Kahului store outlived its counterparts at the Pearlridge Center and Windward Mall on Oahu and a store at the Prince Kuhio Plaza on Hawaii island. 

Talks about the Maui store closing have been around for years as merchandise dwindled.

In its heyday, though, the store was filled with clothes and shoes for the whole family, from babies to kupuna sizes, along with housewares, jewelry, appliances, tools and electronics. People frequented the store for its automotive center, as well as its optical department and a spot to make an extra set of keys.

An employee who answered the phone at the auto center said Friday that it was open but they did not have any technicians to service vehicles. The automotive center’s large garage doors were closed during its normal working hours listed on its website.  

On Friday morning each door to the store had bright yellow signs with red words advertising a store closing sale. The store’s fixtures, furniture and equipment were also listed for sale. Signs posted also sought employees.

Transformco said will continue to expand both Hometown Stores and Home & Life stores in cities and towns that previously had larger format stores. There are more than 300 large and small format Sears and Kmart stores nationwide, the statement said.

The store, advertised at around 87,000 square feet, has been available for lease for months.

A spokesperson did not respond to a question about how many employees continued to work at the Maui store. 

Queen Ka’ahumanu Center did not immediately comment on the closure Friday afternoon. 

The mall also saw long-time tenant Hallmark close in May. The store was a nearly 45-year-old mainstay. 

In June, a judge granted a request to foreclose on Queen Ka’ahumanu Center amid a months long lawsuit over its failure to pay a more than $80 million loan. 

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

** This story contains a correction from the printed version on Sept. 18.

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