CRAIG GIMA / CGIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Kepuhi Beach at the Kalakoi Hotel on Molokai was empty recently after Molokai Ranch announced it was closing. Local business owners are worried about the closure of the ranch and its golf course, which attracted tourists.
Lonely ranch on Molokai
Just above the scenic but empty Kepuhi Beach at the former Kaluakoi Hotel, Ray Patterson loads cases of beer into a cooler at the West End Sundries store and worries about what will happen after today when Molokai Ranch closes the nearby golf course and its other businesses.
Many of Patterson's customers are golfers and golf course employees.
Without the golf course, "snowbirds" -- tourists who regularly return during winter months to stay at nearby condos -- might go instead to another island.
"If there is no golf course, there's no tourists," said Renato Gagtan, of the store A Touch of Molokai next door.
"Locals don't shop here," he said, pointing to the beachwear and other souvenirs in his store.
Molokai Ranch estimated it contributed about $9 million to the island's economy every year, including $3.8 million in wages and benefits, $2.5 million to local suppliers and vendors, and $1.8 million in tourist spending.
"I don't know who is not going to be affected," said Barbara Haliniak, president of the Molokai Chamber of Commerce.
The ranch said 120 employees will lose their jobs after the ranch shuts down the Kaluakoi Golf Course, Molokai Lodge and Kaupoa Beach Village and Maunaloa gas station today.
"The impact (of today's closure) will ripple across the island," Patterson said.
At the Lodge and Beach Village Gift Shop, all items are 30 to 50 percent off. The store, which is not owned by Molokai Ranch, can stay open until the end of the month, said owner Maria Watanabe. Once the store closes, she said, her two employees will lose their jobs.
Farming supplier Hikiola Cooperative sold Molokai Ranch everything from "irrigation supplies to fertilizer," said General Manager Tina Tamanaha.
"It will be a decrease in business," Tamanaha said. She does not anticipate she will have to lay off any workers, but plans for expansion are now on hold.
Teri Waros, a former manager of Molokai Ranch's Lodge and Beach Village, was working last week to find new accommodations for participants in an annual music camp that was to be held at the Kaupoa Beach Village.
Waros said tourists need to know that there are other places to stay on Molokai, including the Hotel Molokai and condominium rentals.
"This island is going to need your (tourist) dollars more than ever," Waros said.
Tourists make up many of the customers of Big Wind Kite Factory in Maunaloa. But owner Jonathan Socher thinks he will be OK after the ranch shuts down. The ranch did not really bring many tourists to Molokai, Socher said.
While other businesses are taking a hit from the closure, the Hotel Molokai is seeing its business increase.
"It means we'll be the only full-service hotel on the island," said General Manager Michael Drew. The hotel is already getting additional banquet business and reservations. Drew said he will hire some of the laid-off Molokai Ranch workers.
The nine-hole Ironwood Golf Course, the only other place to golf on Molokai, will likely see more business.
But owner Darrell Rego said he does not know what the impact will be yet because they do not take reservations for tee times.
"It's kind of a walk-in business," he said.
Lester Keanini, manager of the Maunaloa Town Cinemas, and Eric Wong, assistant manager, are starting a T-shirt company and looking into opening a new movie theater in Kaunakakai.
The triplex theater closed Thursday. The last movies: "Bank Job," "Never Back Down" and "Doomsday."
Economic Impact of Molokai Ranch
» $9 million:
Total contribution to island economy
» $3.8 million:
Wages and benefits
» $2.5 million:
Payments to suppliers
» $1.8 million:
Tourist spending on rental cars, local airline tickets and activities on Molokai
Taxes to state and local government
Source: Molokai Ranch