Some local restaurants weather economic storm

Lizzie Tom
Lizzie Tom
Parker Tom
Parker Tom

By Leland Kim - bio | email

KAKAAKO (KHNL) - The focus Thursday is on Hawaii restaurants and stores, a day after Compadres Bar and Grill at Ward Centre announced it's closing its doors Friday.

Is this an isolated incident, or is this a sign of more closures on the horizon?

Ward Centre has about 40 stores and restaurants. A block away is Ward Warehouse, which has more than 70 businesses.

No doubt the soft economy has had an impact, but not all places are hurting and some are even going strong.

Ryan's Grill at Ward Centre is practically an island institution. It's been a popular eating spot for 25 years. It's also next to Compadres, which is shutting its doors Friday, a victim of the economy.

"You know, it's going to be sad," said Letitia Castaneda, Ryan's general manager. "They're not just our neighbors, they're our friends."

The Tom family wanted to eat at Compadres one last time, but the line was too long. So they ended up at Ryan's. Parker Tom used to work at Compadres more than ten years ago.

"I couldn't believe it," he said. "I thought it was a steady, good Mexican company that had good food, so I figured it wouldn't go down."

When the economy gets soft, families find ways to tighten their budget.

"We don't go out as much, and of course, I bug my husband because I like to get out of the house," said Lizzie Tom, Parker's wife.

"I have a pretty good job and even I feel the squeeze," said Parker Tom. "We don't go out to eat as often."

But established restaurants like Ryan's seem to weather the economic storm better than others. Their profits are about even from last year.

"Well, Ryan's has been around 25 years and we plan on being around another 25 years," said Castaneda.

Parker and Lizzie Tom say even though they've been forced to cut back, it's important to support local restaurants.

"Once in a while you got to go out and have some time away from the home, and treat the kids to a night out or something," said Parker Tom.

Serving up food to those supporting the local economy.

Revenues at all Ward properties -- the Centre, the Warehouse and the theatre complex, are down from last year, but just slightly lower compared to other places.

Some restaurant owners say higher energy costs, higher food costs, and fewer customers have really cut into their profit margins.

News that Compadres Bar and Grill will close Friday spread quickly. Longtime customers flocked to the Mexican restaurant during Thursday's lunch hour.

The wait midday was an hour to get a table. Many faithful customers wanted to get one last meal before the restaurant closed its doors for good.

"It's sad just because the people and the food they're great, and being that the economy right now is kind of slow, it's sad to see such a good restaurant like this having to close because of economic difficulties," said Maria Santiago, a longtime Compadres customer.

"I was sad actually because it's been around at least twenty years that I'm aware of, and we've been coming here for at least ten years, so it's pretty sad," added Tanya Lasconia, another Compadres customer.

The restaurant will close its doors Friday evening. Three other Compadres locations in Lahaina, Oakland, and Palo Alto, California, have also shut down.