DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The first Hawaii Walgreens store had its grand opening ceremony yesterday. Upon leaving, everyone, including a smiling Frances Vinade, above, was given a t-shirt and bag of goodies.
Walgreens opens doors in Hawaii
The Kapiolani store is the first of four to open here in the next year
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The first Walgreens store opened its doors to a rush of customers at Keeaumoku Street and Kapiolani Boulevard yesterday morning, following a Hawaiian blessing.
Customers were eager to check out the new competition to Longs Drugs, which has been operating in Hawaii for decades.
The Keeaumoku Walgreens is the first of four announced so far in the state. Two more Walgreens are expected to open on Oahu and one on Maui in the second half of 2008.
The Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens expects to open between 25 to 30 stores throughout the state.
Hawaii's stores are also expected to be among the top-grossing in the nation, according to Walgreens chairman and CEO, Jeffrey A. Rein.
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DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Gov. Linda Lingle, left, welcomed Walgreens to Hawaii during the grand opening ceremony yesterday.
Following a Hawaiian blessing, Walgreens opened the doors of its first Hawaii store yesterday to a rush of customers eager to check out the newcomer.
» Honolulu: 1488 Kapiolani Blvd. open Nov. 1, 2007
» Kaneohe: Former Star Market, Kamehameha Highway, 2008
» Kalihi: Former Kam Bowl, N. School St., 2008
» Lahaina, Maui: Honoapiilani Highway and Keawe Street, 2008
Total for Hawaii: 25 to 30
Total store count: 6,000+
Planned store count by 2010: 7,000
The store, at the former Tower Records site at 1488 Kapiolani Blvd., is the first of at least four to open in Hawaii over the next year. With 9,000 square feet of retail space, it will be smaller than the others planned for Hawaii, and will not feature a drive-through pharmacy.
However, the location was a great opportunity, according to Walgreen Co. Chairman and CEO Jeffrey A. Rein, and too good to pass up.
"We'd been looking at Hawaii for several years," said Rein, who cited real estate as the toughest barrier to entry in the state. "Our original goal was to open several stores in spring 2008, but this opportunity came along and it's a great location."
The first Walgreens in Hawaii will serve a dense, urban area where many shoppers are expected to walk in by foot. Rein was so buoyed by the excitement yesterday that he spontaneously doubled the $5,000 donation originally announced to the American Diabetes Association in Hawaii.
Eventually, Walgreens aims to open between 25 to 30 stores throughout the state.
The stores planned for next year in Kaneohe, Kalihi and Lahaina on Maui, will be more 14,000 square feet each, with drive-through pharmacies. Walgreens will build the Lahaina store a little larger, at 15,000 square feet, on a vacant site. All are expected to be open 24 hours.
The Keeaumoku store does have potential for expansion, as Walgreens earlier this summer purchased the five-story office building next door, at 1500 Kapiolani Blvd.
Rein said Walgreens bought it because the opportunity was there -- and that it could lead to an expansion later on, but won't happen for awhile.
With its entry into Hawaii, Walgreens is expected to pose significant competition for Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Longs Drug Stores Corp., which has had more than 50 years in the market here.
Longs Drugs has a store just across the street from the first Walgreens, at Ala Moana Center, and already has 36 stores in the state.
But a growing population of elderly in Hawaii will also mean the pie for prescription drugs will increase over the years, said Rein.
Hiring employees -- more than 40 per store -- came much easier than finding real estate, according to Rein. Among the employees in Hawaii stores are about a dozen that are returning to the isles from the mainland.
Hawaii's stores are expected to be among the top-grossing in the nation, according to Rein.
The Deerfield, Ill.-based company has a pretty good performance record so far, ringing in nearly $54 billion in sales during fiscal year 2007. It is also on the fast track to expansion, expecting to open another 550 new drugstores in fiscal 2008.
A quick stroll through the store's aisles reveal products typical of any local drug store -- medicines, flower lei, snacks, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, household cleaners, hair dye, makeup, a photo center, and a small souvenir section with dashboard hula dolls, post cards and slippers.
The store is stocked with about 20,000 products, including those from more than 50 local product vendors. Some familiar names include Island Princess, Hawaiian Host, Mauna Loa, Aloha Maid, Haleakala Dairy passion orange guava juice and Lion coffee.
Dennis Young, a McCully resident, said he had a positive impression of his first time in a Walgreens store.
"It does remind me a little bit of Longs," he said. "It's good to have a choice. It makes it that much better for the consumer. So far, I like it."
Steven Hellman of Palolo Valley, swung by yesterday morning to check out the new store. He's been to Walgreens in Chicago, but that was more than 10 years ago.
"I just wanted to see what it was like," he said.
He was happy to find he could buy a cup of Kona blend coffee for just 39 cents at Cafe W, a self-serve drink and food bar, even though he had to jostle through a crowd. All Walgreens in Hawaii will feature Cafe W.
"I love Walgreens," raved Girline Thomas of Waikiki. "The prices are very fair and you get a variety of everything you need."
Thomas said she would walk or bus to the store from Waikiki -- and was happy to show off the bargain she found yesterday -- a slow cooker for about $10.