KAILUA (HawaiiNewsNow) - The lights went out for the final time at the Kailua First Stop convenience store Thursday night. Wolfgang and Susan Hucklenbroich have closed their store after 26 years in the same retail space at the Kailua Beach Center.
Susan said, "The community wants us to be here. You know, I mean, we had so many people coming out here and expressing that, it's really touching our hearts that they want us to be here."
The Hucklenbroichs say landlord Kaneohe Ranch Management Limited offered them a new lease, but it would have reduced their store from about 1,800 square feet to just 1,000 square feet. They say that's not enough space to operate a successful convenient store.
Susan went on to say, "We have a little bit of everything, and we cannot operate in a smaller space, unless we wanted to choose one of those other options, which we don't, because that's not meeting the needs of the community."
Mitch D'Olier, president and C.E.O. of Kaneohe Ranch, told Hawaii News Now the 800 square feet taken from the convenience store will be used to expand Island Snow which is next to the convenient store. He said, "We wanted to expand the neighboring tenant because we thought that tenant provided a signature to that center and so we wanted to expand the successful local tenant. That meant something had to give somewhere."
D'Olier also said he believes 1,000 square feet is enough to operate a convenience store and he wanted First Stop to stay. He added that he has already received inquiries from businesses that want to rent the space including an inquiry from someone who wants to open a convenience store.
Employees, friends, and regular customers spent Thursday dismantling equipment in the store and hauling it away. In the late afternoon a crowd of more than 50 people gathered to say goodbye to the store, the Hucklenbroichs, and their employees.