WAIKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Final closeout sales are under way at the International Market Place, as the 56-year-old Waikiki landmark prepares to close down for a major redevelopment. Most of the tenants have until New Year's Eve to move out.
Pauli Tamale has been carving tikis at the shopping destination for 11 years. He said he brings in anywhere from $300 to $500 a day selling tikis of all sizes.
After he closes down New Years Day, "I'm going to go back to Tonga," Tamale said, because he plans to work at his Tongan auto dealership.
Michelle Lam has had this jewelry kiosk at the International Market Place for 20 years and her future is uncertain.
"I'm going to be jobless. I don't have a place to go yet," Lam said.
She and other tenants are discounting their merchandise, figuring it's easier to sell off items, even at cost, than to move them somewhere else when they move out at the end of the year.
Some of the stores are already empty. Those tenants have moved out the last few weeks.
Bruce McGonigal, known as The Bird Man, has a kiosk with colorful parrots in the Waikiki Town Center that's also being demolished as part of the project. He takes photos of people with his parrots for cash, and has been there for four and a half years.
"It's a perfect location for me. I'm going to miss it a whole bunch and I'm just hoping I'll find another place just as good or better," Gonigal said.
The historic banyan tree at the center of the market place is staying. Developer Taubman Centers has hired the same arborist who's taken care of the tree for the last 40 years. He'll come up with a plan to protect it during the construction process, a spokesman said.
Landowner Queen Emma Land plans to begin construction early next year, spending $350 million to redevelop the site with high-end retailer Saks Fifth Avenue as the anchor, and room for 60 other shops and seven restaurants. It also plans a 750-stall parking garage.
In a statement, the landowner said the project "… is anticipated to create approximately 1,000 construction jobs, and 2,500 permanent jobs, boost tourism, and generate additional sales and property taxes for the city and state."
"We are deeply grateful to our International Market Place tenants for supporting the Waikiki community over these many years," said Cedric Yamanaka, director of corporate communications for the Queen Emma Land Company. "We thank them for their patience in this redevelopment proves, which we know has not been easy."
"It is important to note that revenues from the revitalized International Market Place will support The Queen's Medical Center, the state's largest private, nonprofit hospital and its mission of providing quality health care to all of Hawaii's people," Yamanaka said.
Colleen Heyer, daughter of Outrigger Hotels chairman Doc Kelley, grew up playing at the market place as a kid and brought her children and friends to see the place one last time Friday.
"I've actually shopped here. There's great deals, you know. It's one of the few places you can actually bargain around town," Heyer, a Diamond Head resident, said.
The International Market Place shortly opened in 1957 and was one of the hot spots for Waikiki entertainment.
"There was Duke Kahanamoku's back here where Don Ho used to play and my aunty was a waitress there and used to make a lot of money," recalled Glenna Wong of Hawaii Kai. "All the movie stars used to visit Hawaii and go there, to, you know, kaukau."
Local entertainer Al Waterson and wife Nancy Bernal strolled through the market place for one final trip down memory lane Friday. Waterson was the lead singer in the band Brentwood that used to perform at the market place's Cock's Roost night spot in the 1970s.
"There's so much history and there's so many memories here. It's just a shame, but time goes on and so does progress. So, one last goodbye," Waterson said.