Monday, December 31, 2001

10 who made a difference


Mitch D'Olier

He attracted large retailers to Oahu despite a slow economy

CEO wakes up
Hawaii’s retail scene

Each year, the Star-Bulletin recognizes 10 people who made a difference over the past 12 months. Whether deserving of honor or controversy, the criterion is that they made a profound impact on Hawaii. Here is the ninth notable individual.

By Rick Daysog

It was several weeks before the Memorial Day weekend premiere of "Pearl Harbor," and construction on Consolidated Theatre's new 16-screen cinema complex was not yet finished. But Mitch D'Olier was not sweating it.

Working his staff and contractors overtime, the chief executive officer of landowner Victoria Ward Ltd. was able to deliver the 85,000-square-foot, 4,000-seat cinema complex in time for the national opening of the much-anticipated World War II epic.

While "Pearl Harbor" did not live up to its expectations at the national box offices, Ward's new theaters have created new excitement in the once-sleepy retail center and is changing the face of the island retailing scene, long dominated by massive shopping malls like Ala Moana Center and Pearlridge Center.

D'Olier and his staff followed up the theaters by signing Dave & Buster's Inc. for its $40 million Ward Entertainment Center complex. The restaurant and arcade venue has become a popular nighttime gathering spot.

In November, D'Olier made headlines when he signed a letter of intent with Seattle-based retailer Nordstrom Inc. to open a 150,000-square-foot department store in Kakaako in 2005.

The Nordstrom store, which was unveiled a week before Macy's Thanksgiving weekend takeover of Liberty House Stores, will anchor Victoria Ward's planned $200 million retail expansion and will bring new competition to the department store business in Hawaii.

The results are impressive given the state's lackluster economy, which has taken its toll on island retailers, observers said.

"They have built up a lot of momentum," said Don Bremner, a co-founder and board member of the Kakaako Improvement Association, which is made up of 100 business and landowners in the central Honolulu district. "You have to say that he's made a big difference in Kakaako."

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