Friday, October 24, 2003

Pat Budde of Kilauea stood guard over two overloaded shopping carts while her husband, Ray, was checking out yet another. In all, the couple spent just under $1,200 yesterday on the opening day of the new Home Depot on Kauai. Homeowners planning remodeling projects have put off purchases for more than a year waiting for the store to open and they jammed the store on its first day.

Kauai’s residents swarm in
as Home Depot opens doors

The much-anticipated debut
of the island's second-largest
retailer attracts hundreds

LIHUE >> Talk about pent-up demand.

Some Kauai residents have been putting off home improvements for more than a year since they heard Home Depot would be opening a store in Lihue in the fall of 2003.

Yesterday it happened.

In the blink of an eye, Home Depot became the second largest retailer on Kauai after Wal-Mart (the two hold the same relative positions worldwide). The new $7.9 million store had been built and the customers were coming.

At midafternoon the 435-stall parking lot was full. There was even a U.S. Navy van parked out in the lot. Despite their base exchange privileges, off-duty sailors came 30 miles from the Pacific Missile Range Facility to go shopping at the new Home Depot.

An even bigger crowd was expected yesterday evening as Kauai residents got off work and came to gawk and buy. Security guards were on hand to direct vehicles to overflow parking across the street at Sears.

By Kauai standards -- which has neighborhood hardware stores scattered across the island -- the 125,000 square foot home improvement store is a colossus offering an unmatched quantity and variety of products.

"There's just too much stuff," one woman shopper told a friend. "I have to go home and bring someone back to help me."

Attorney Dan Hempey, who is renovating an old house and is one of the many who had been waiting for Home Depot to open, had a bewildered look on his face.

"I'm overwhelmed," Hempey said. "I don't know where to start."

Ray and Pat Budde of Kilauea knew exactly where to start. They walked out with $1,186.89 worth of purchases in three shopping carts.

In the Home Depot appliance department was a group of shoppers all wearing Sears identification. They were appliance salespeople from the store across the street "Where America Shops."

There were the usual discussions about the big box store pushing out the small retailers. But Kauai shoppers flocking to Wal-Mart and Safeway have already shown that when it comes to loyalty to Mom and Pop stores versus national retailers with volume discounts, low prices are going to win.

The new store is creating about 150 jobs for Kauai residents for an annual payroll of about $5 million.


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