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Monday, February 19, 2001

Nature Company
at Ala Moana
closing in March

The company's last isle
outlet has 15 workers

By Tim Ruel

The Nature Company outlet at Ala Moana Center is slated to close permanently at the end of March, bringing an end to the mainland chain's Hawaii presence.

Store manager Lori Anthony said the retailer's lease with Chicago-based mall owner General Growth Properties Inc. is not being renewed.

General Growth told the Nature Company it had to relocate elsewhere in the mall from the 2,400-square-foot spot, Dwight Yoshimura, the mall's general manager, said today. He did not know of the chain's further plans.

The mall is reviewing its options for the space and may appoint a temporary replacement tenant, he said.

The Nature Company closed its other location at Pearlridge Center two years ago, also because of a terminated lease, Anthony said.

"It's sad to see them leave," said retail analyst Stephany Sofos.

Anthony said the chain wants to do business in Hawaii, and sales have been doing well. Local residents are extremely familiar with the the Ala Moana store, she said. The Nature Company has had success in carrying a variety of products, from globes, books, maps and telescopes to stuffed animals, toys, indoor waterfalls and scented candles, she said.

The outlet is selling off its merchandise for a 30 percent discount until the closing date. "Excluding the telescopes, of course," Anthony said.

Much of the inventory stored downstairs at the shopping center is already gone, she said, pointing to rows of empty shelves at the store on Friday afternoon.

The store's 15 employees will be offered jobs within the chain on the mainland, or be laid off, Anthony said.

Peace Corps volunteers Tom and Priscilla Wrubel opened the first Nature Company outlet in 1973 in Berkeley, Calif. In 1996, the troubled company and its 110 U.S. outlets were bought for $40 million by Bethesda, Md.-based diversified media giant Discovery Communications Inc., owner of the Learning Channel, Discovery Channel and Travel Channel.

The parent later converted many of the Nature Company outlets to its own Discovery Channel stores.

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