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Tuesday, February 6, 2001

bids aloha to
Pearlridge store

The outlet is due to close
March 18 while the future
of the other two sites
remains uncertain

By Russ Lynch

The Shirokiya store in Pearlridge Center will close at the end of the business day on March 18, 14 months after the chain's Japan-based owner announced plans to sell all three Hawaii stores.

The 50 employees will be paid through March 31 and will be offered opportunities to work at the flagship store in Ala Moana Center, spokeswoman Sheila Donnelly said today.

The lease for the 20-year-old store runs out at the end of March and the parent Tokyu Department Store Co. opted not to seek a new one, Donnelly said.

Discussions are ongoing about the future of the other stores. The Ala Moana outlet remains open under a lease that runs until 2003, while the Maui store in the Kaahumanu Center has about a year left on its lease, she said.

The company has had trouble selling the stores because of the short times remaining on their leases.

There was a tremendous outpouring of support from the public as well as business and government leaders after Tokyu initially said it would close the Hawaii stores and then, in late January 2000, announced it would sell them.

Thousands of Shirokiya customers signed petitions pledging their support and pleading with the company to keep them open.

Sources say restructuring moves are under discussion that could lead to keeping the remaining stores in business.

Shirokiya opened its first Hawaii store in 1959, a 23,000-square-foot outlet near Sears in the first phase of Ala Moana Center. In 1966, after the second phase opened, Shirokiya moved to its present site across from Liberty House, adding a floor in 1974 to bring it to 50,000 square feet. It opened the Maui outlet of 13,000 square feet in 1973 and the 20,000-square-feet Pearlridge store in 1981.

The stores have been popular with mainland tourists, giving them a taste of Japan in both merchandise and food, as well as with resident Japanese nationals and older Hawaii residents of Japanese descent.

Tokyu said last year that a slump in tourism caused sales to fall at Ala Moana and that the Hawaii results had fallen to the point where it was not feasible to stay in business in the islands.

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