Small shops inside Sears Ala Moana scramble to find new homes - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Small shops inside Sears Ala Moana scramble to find new homes as closure nears

Mila Hudson Mila Hudson
Ron Bongiovanni Ron Bongiovanni
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

More than a dozen small mom-and-pop businesses inside the Sears Ala Moana store are scrambling to find new locations because the store is closing June 2.

The "going out of business" signs are all over Sears Ala Moana, with sales under way to clear out the inventory, even fixtures such as shelves.    

And no one feels the pressure more than Mila Hudson, owner of the Sears Flower Shop. She's still looking for a place to move when the store closes in less than a month. To save money, she has already had to lay off her only full-time employee. 

"So I have two part-time and one on-call for making flower arrangements. I also have my daughter and my other daughter works part-time with us," Hudson said. 

Hudson hopes to find a new location nearby because hers is the only flower shop in the mall. 

"Our customer really need flowers because there are no flowers here in Ala Moana," Hudson said. 

"My heart and everybody else's heart just dropped and sunk," said Ron Bongiovanni, owner of Celebrity Tuxedos, explaining his reaction when he found out Sears Ala Moana was closing in just three months, instead of a year and a half to two years as originally planned. 

The tuxedo shop has been at Ala Moana Sears for more than 30 years. 

"For a local business to go out and scramble and try to get real estate during this time is just, it's been a real challenge," Bongiovanni said. 

He's found a new location in the Kenrock building at 1400 Kapiolani Boulevard, only a block away from Ala Moana Center. 

He just painted the walls last weekend, and plans to spend as much as $80,000 moving his tuxedo business to the new location.  Because he had just three months to move out, construction and other costs were much higher than if he had had a year or more to plan.

Bongiovanni said he'll miss Sears' licensed business program , in which small shops do not pay rent, but instead pay Sears a percentage of their overall take. The businesses ring up their transactions on Sears registers and Sears simply cuts a check to the business owner every month. 

"They've given a lot of opportunity to a lot of small businesses and that's gone now," Bongiovanni said. 

Another long-time tenant that's been at Sears Ala Moana for 21 years, JR's Caps and Embroidery, will move to a Ward Avenue location.  

Aloha Key shop is closing down , but there are six other locations remaining on Oahu, including a Cooke Street outlet in Kakaako. 

And the Sears Ala Moana watch and jewelry repair shop is moving to a smaller location at Macy's Ala Moana, at the other end of the mall. 

"They're all local, family-owned operated businesses that I just pray to God they land.  I just really do," said Bongiovanni about his fellow Sears small businesses.

He said at first, when the stores were told they had a year to two years before Sears Ala Moana would close, the small shops began searching for a commercial property near the mall where they could move together.  But once Ala Moana Center landlord General Growth Properties sped things up in March and gave them just three months' notice, those efforts fizzled, Bongiovanni said. 

Sears stores at Windward Mall in Kaneohe and Pearlridge Center are still open on Oahu. 


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