Sentiments aside, an original tenant of Windward Mall will close
SENTIMENTALLY YOURS Inc.
, a locally owned original tenant of Windward Mall, will close its doors on Monday -- after the store's owners and mall management could not agree on a relocation plan.
"We've been month-to-month for two years," said owner Heidi Aoki-Phillips. She took over the business from its previous owner, Janet Ogawa, who retired in 2001.
Sentimentally Yours originally was called Kris Kringle's Den, but its name was changed in 1987. Aoki-Phillips started working in the shop in 1989 and also worked, for a time, in the former Disney Store at the mall.
"At the time our lease ended, our sales had been dropping," Aoki-Phillips said. "There wasn't as much traffic in the mall and I didn't want to sign anything long term."
In early June she was approached by a mall leasing agent who told her a national tenant was interested in the space "and that we needed to vacate our space. We could move to a temporary location within the mall.
"It was shocking. It just wasn't an option to stay in our space," Aoki-Phillips said.
A move would have been too expensive and too much work with the store's built-in glass showcases, she said, "and the foot traffic in the mall is low compared to many years ago and I just didn't see it as being worth it."
The mall offered Aoki-Phillips "four different scenarios, on a temporary or long-term basis," General Manager Jonathan Kim said.
The mall is owned by Kamehameha Schools and is managed by General Growth Properties Inc., based in Chicago. General Growth owns Ala Moana Center and the Victoria Ward retail and entertainment complex.
Aoki-Phillips' move "didn't pencil-out on a short-term basis, but we were willing to do long-term -- not in that wing, but looking more down toward the Macy's wing," Kim said.
He said Sentimentally Yours, which had a popular product mix back when it started in 1983, did very well during the holidays, but that it had been generally underperforming.
Special Dreams Inc., another tenant in the mall since the early 1980s, closed in January, also to make way for a national tenant that has yet to move in. Kim would not identify the tenants moving in to the Special Dreams or Sentimentally Yours spaces. Building permits have yet to be issued, which is holding up demolition and rebuilding work.
The former Special Dreams shopkeepers have an e-commerce site where they sell Lucy Ann brand keepsakes and jewelry, based out of California. President Diane Fukuda could not be reached for comment.
"We worked with (Special Dreams) on a number of different areas," Kim said. At first the owners tried to sell the business, but with only a few months left on the lease a buyer was not found. The situations were very similar, Kim said. "They couldn't agree on whatever we presented," he said.
Jeff Chang Pottery & Fine Crafts took a temporary space in the mall in 1996 and recently left to make way for Ruby Tuesday, which opened in May. The pottery and craft store never had a long-term lease, Kim said.
Kim compared a store's placement within the mall to arranging merchandise in a department store.
"You place your different products where you draw the person in, (and set up) key areas where you think your shoppers will go, to maximize the presentation to the shoppers," he said.
"It is never a pleasant task to part company with a long-term merchant."
With the departure of Sentimentally Yours, Special Dreams and Jeff Chang Pottery, may create a perception that Windward Mall is pushing out local tenants to make way for national chains. However, of the 16 new tenants announced by the mall since November, at least 12 are locally based or are part of a national chain run by local franchisees.
In January, Kamehameha Schools announced plans to spend $23 million on the first major renovation of Windward Mall since it was completed in 1982.
The renovation will start in September "and naturally the landlord is looking to recoup some of their expenses and we have to do our part in maximizing the highest and best use of the space here," Kim said.
Aoki-Phillips said she wants to stay in Kaneohe and is looking for space comparable to her mall shop's 738 square feet. She hopes to open in September.
"We'll be able to make our own hours, and it'll be nice to have holidays off and time with family," she said.
In the meantime, a moving sale is underway with some merchandise to sell at 50 percent off.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com