Monday, July 19, 1999

Chinatown night-mart
reactions mixed

Some businesses say loss of traffic hurt

By Treena Shapiro


Chinatown business owners had mixed reactions to the first Night Market last Saturday.

Lei stand owners found their fears realized when business ground to a halt after 3 p.m. because a portion of Maunakea Street was closed to traffic between Pauahi and Hotel streets.

"Everybody comes by here with the car," said Loretta Le, owner of Lin's Lei Shop. "From three o'clock they told all the customers they have to go go go. No customers can stop."

Saturdays are usually a big day for lei purchases, but from 3 to 10 p.m., the stand saw no business. "It's just like you block the blood circulation," Le said.

Cindy's Lei and Flower Shop across the street saw a similar loss of business. Although Cindy's is right next to the Municipal Parking Lot, customers didn't realize the structure was open. To get to the entrance they had to turn left off King Street onto Maunakea, which is usually one way in the other direction.

Lynne Matusow, chairwoman of the Downtown Neighborhood Board said that there were no signs on King indicating that cars could turn on to Maunakea.

"I'm a little upset," Matusow said. "(The city) said they were going to set up a loading zone on King Street for customers of the lei shops between King and Hotel. That was not done."

Matusow also saw no reason for the street to be closed at 3 p.m. when the Night Market didn't begin until 6 p.m.

The closed street created problems for Wong-N-Wong Seafood Restaurant as well, because take-out customers had trouble finding parking. Kristina Yee, a waitress at the restaurant, said that business was slow for a Saturday. One regular Saturday night customer in a wheelchair had to go somewhere else because he couldn't find parking close to the restaurant, Yee said.

Annie Luu, a partner at her family's New World Clothing store believes the Night Market would be better on a Sunday, when business is slower. Saturdays are generally a good business day for her, but around 3 p.m. it got quiet, Luu said.

However, at Maunakea Marketplace reactions were positive.

Kimi Le Richardson, owner of Kimi's, a jewelry and gift store, said she saw a lot of new customers who rapidly became repeat customers. "They took a look yesterday and they came back today," Richardson said on Sunday.

Wing Cheong Wong, a Hotel Street market owner, saw more business than usual during the evening hours. His friend Peter Chiang, said the Night Market is a terrific idea.

"The future is good," he said. "It will really help Chinatown business."

George Kurisu, manager and president of Mahalo Mall, which houses about a dozen shops at the end of Maunakea, would like his area to be part of the Night Market, but Maunakea reopens on his block. "I think it'd be a bonanza if they'd include us," he said, pointing out that there was parking in back of the mall for people who wanted to come in and look at the antique stores.

"Put a band or a stage over here and we're open."

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