Walmart Opens First Downtown Honolulu Store
Big-box retailer moves into old Macy’s/Liberty House space.
Photos: Lorin Eleni Gill
A crowd packed Fort Street mall this morning as the latest Walmart opened in downtown Honolulu. Customers young and old eagerly poured into the store as soon as the traditional maile lei was untied.
In the year that the store has been under construction, some people have grumbled at the idea of another, even larger, big-box retailer replacing Macy’s. Judging from the crowd, it didn’t stop many people from showing up.
Customers rushed around two floors of retail space, grabbing everything from diapers to bentos. You’ll find consumables on the first floor and apparel, electronics, home items and toys upstairs. One customer excitedly told me that the apple prices were cheaper than at markets in Chinatown. But she soon realized it was 75 cents per apple, not 75 cents a pound, and she and her friends quickly unloaded their apples back onto the rack and moved on to the next aisle, chuckling at their mistake. That price did seem too good to be true.
Abby Akau, shopping for drapes in the home decor section, was chipper about the new Walmart and its location. “I miss Macy’s, though,” she said. “I don’t like to have to go to Ala Moana for that. But I can buy a lot of things here I can’t elsewhere, they have good selection.” The one thing that disappointed her was the pre-packaged fabric—not the kind that you cut like at the larger store on Keeaumoku street. “When I found out, I went, ‘Oh, darn!’” she said. But that’s to be expected in a smaller store. You’re not going to find an L&L here. We did find employees happy with their company.
“I was here setting up for the past four months,” cashier Jacob Pearson said, who makes his work commute from Waimanalo. “All of this wasn’t here,” he gestured around the store with a smile. The image of a barren store was hard to imagine, with shopping-cart traffic-jams between aisles stacked high with brightly colored products. “For this location, I think we’re going to do hella good, especially with the HPU dorms opening.”
This latest Walmart location, the 10th in Hawaii, is opening in a part of town known for its growing homeless population, a fact that hasn’t escaped the company. It made sure to announce at the opening that it is reaching out to local community organizations. Grants were presented to the Manoa School of Music, YMCA and YWCA, Waikiki Health (Next Step) and Boy Scouts of America. A special Walmart Foundation Hawaii State Giving Council grant supports the Institute for Human Services (IHS).
“We’re excited because Walmart brings an energy to the area for economic development and they have already hired a couple of our folks out of the Hele2Work program,” IHS executive director Connie Mitchell said. “It’s a huge gift to us to kick-start the employment efforts we have.” The grant also supports the IHS’ rooftop aquaponic garden and its job-training program.
Waikiki Health’s Next Step program also has a hiring partnership with Walmart. “Of course they have to be qualified,” Waikiki Health’s Jason Espero said. “But for them to not be prejudiced against the homeless is amazing, and the partnership hasn’t ended. We’re going to continue to refer people to Walmart.”
The new Walmart will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with two-hour parking validation available for purchases of $25 or more. The store includes a MoneyCenter (which provides credit card, money transfer and protection and tax services), pharmacy, vision center, and Hawaiian Tel Federal Credit Union.
Our only question: Where is HONOLULU Magazine on the check-out rack?
(Update: Turns out the lack of HONOLULU Magazine is only temporary—Walmart recently changed magazine distributors and its magazine rack will be stocked within one to two weeks. Hurray!)
Location: 1032 Fort St.
Size: Approximately 80,000 square feet
Parking: Standard parking rates are $3 per half hour. Two hours of validated parking available with purchases of $25 or more. The entrance to the parking structure is located on the right side of Bethel Street, just past the store entrance.
Number of jobs created: Approximately 150 full- and part-time positions