Longs shortens drive for many Big Islanders
LONGS Drug Stores Corp.
opened a pharmacy store in Keaau Shopping Center in the Big Island's Puna District yesterday, potentially saving time, gas and personal energy for folks who previously had to drive all the way to Hilo to get their meds.
Puna communities have long had a variety of mom-and-pop stores for over-the-counter drugs and health-and-beauty needs, but until relatively recently, getting a prescription filled meant a trip to Hilo.
Of course, your columnist's memory of this fact goes back to the late 1970s, when everybody had to walk to school barefoot, in the snow, uphill both ways.
"That's the great thing about these pharmacy stores, it's about convenience for our customers," said Farra Levin, Longs spokeswoman.
Keaau is a sort of junction community for residents of the southern half of the Big Island, many of whom pass through the town during commutes to Hilo for work.
Veteran Longs pharmacist Dennis Niimi, with the company for more than 18 years, serves customers at Longs' 36th Hawaii store, where the employee count will range from five to 10 staffers.
The Keaau Longs is the fifth smaller-concept store to open in the islands, following the California-based company's purchase of Gulick Pharmacy last year and three PharMerica Inc. locations in Kailua, Kihei and Wailuku earlier this year.
It is also Longs' fifth store on the Big Island, with two in Hilo and two in Kona.
It will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.
As opposed to the typical 16,000-square-foot Longs, the Keaau store is about 2,200 square feet and features, in addition to a full-service pharmacy, a range of over-the- counter medications and other health and beauty merchandise.
The company announced in December, at the time of the Gulick opening, that it would open one to four more locations within the next year or so.
The expansion of Longs' pharmacy stores comes as national drug store chain Walgreen Co. is aggressively leasing space for its Hawaii expansion.
Walgreens has more than 5,500 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Longs is considerably smaller, with some 500 stores, but it has time-in-grade here, doing business in Hawaii since 1954.
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