Star Market in Moiliili closing its doors Monday


POSTED: Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Star Market in Moiliili, the first one in the chain, and another store in Ewa Beach will close early next week.

Small signs went up late yesterday at the Moiliili store saying its doors will close 9 p.m. Monday for the final time.

“;It's sad, really sad,”; said Judith Yoshioka, 53, who lives on Isenberg Street and shops at the Moiliili store three to four times a week.

About 17 union employees are losing their jobs.

The closures are part of a buyout of the Star Market chain by Times Supermarket.

Times, founded more than 60 years ago by the sons of Okinawan immigrants, will re-brand the remaining Star Markets in Hawaii, including two stores on Oahu, at the Kamehameha Shopping Center and Mililani, two on Maui and one on Kauai.

The transition represents the end of an era for the Star Markets chain, which brothers Tsuenjiro and Mika Fujieki opened as an offshoot of the Kakaako Meat Market, which they founded in the 1920s.

The acquisition will expand Times' presence to the neighbor islands, creating a local grocery giant with a combined 17 supermarkets and more than 1,100 employees.

Pat Loo, president of United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 480, said the union has signed a contract with Times to supply employees for the remaining Honolulu stores.

“;They are picking up some of the employees,”; Loo said. “;Unfortunately, they can't pick up all of them.”;

Manny (who declined to give his last name) is a 50-year-old meat cutter at Moiliili who is losing his job. He is married with a 19-month-old daughter and another baby on the way.

“;To get into a union store is like impossible because you have to go on a waiting list and you have to start from the bottom,”; he said, but he added, “;I not worried.”;

Loo said that Times will reduce the number of union employees working in its meat, fish and frozen/chill departments from about 37 to fewer than 20.

It is rumored that Times will sell the Moiliili and Ewa Beach stores to CVS Caremark Corp., which recently acquired Longs Drug Stores, Loo said.

“;It's bad news for union employees, but it's a sign of the times,”; he said.

“;I'm upset but what can you do?”; said Mona Diorec of Palolo, who bought cactus and orchid bark at the Moiliili Star garden shop yesterday.

“;This is the closest store to where I live that has everything I need from groceries to your yard (supplies),”; she said. “;And the people are nice. They're really helpful. ... They taught me a lot.”;

The 50 union employees, who are represented by the ILWU Local 142 on Maui, will keep their jobs following the changeover, said Willie Kennison, the ILWU's Maui division director.

“;They are keeping everyone and recognizing the current contracts,”; Kennison said. “;It's been a very positive transition.”;