Oahu North Shore businesses closing as tourist torrent slows to a trickle

“As you can see throughout town, it’s a ghost town and a lot of businesses are already shuttered,”
Updated: Aug. 12, 2020 at 9:32 PM HST
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HALEIWA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s not just Waikiki that’s been hit hard by the drop in visitor numbers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Oahu’s North Shore is also suffering from a major drop in business, with more shops calling it quits.

An estimated ten million people visited the North Shore last year, with tourists lining the sidewalks and rental cars jamming Kamehameha Highway in Haleiwa.

Not now.

“As you can see throughout town, it’s a ghost town and a lot of businesses are already shuttered,” said Andre Cooper, whose family has owned the Aloha General Store for nearly 20 years.

The shop sells snacks and souvenirs, but now there are no tourists to buy them.

Cooper said there had been some foot traffic from Oahu residents who would visit to go to the beach, especially on the weekend. But with beaches and parks closed once again, businesses are taking another big hit.

“It’s kinda detrimental not having the locals even coming up to the beaches, because they go to the beaches and then they come get shave ice and so forth, and you’re not even having that now,” he said.

Cooper said he was recently approved for a grant that will keep him in business for now, but he said it will keep him open for another month.

Roxana Jimenez, manager of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, said the area will always be an attraction when tourists return, but businesses need to have customers to stay open.

“We need people to come up and support the beauty of this region and the pristineness of this region and keep businesses afloat,” said Jimenez.

Haleiwa Art Gallery is one of the businesses that closed for good this summer. It shut its doors on July 31. Owner George Atkins said he believed Hawaii would be hit hard by the pandemic -- something he considered as he pondered closing the gallery, which had been in business for 24 years.

“As I was nearing my decision, I saw so many people come in that just didn’t have any idea -- you know, the masks down (below) the nose -- so I kinda saw it coming,” said Atkins.

North Shore residents who had grown weary of all-day visitor-related traffic jams said tourism needs to come back -- but at a smaller, more manageable level.

“Do we need ten million tourists? No, not at all,” said Randy Rarick, retired longtime surf promoter and 50-year North Shore resident. “I’d say somewhere between five to seven million tourists is perfect for Hawaii. Everybody can make a living, a decent living, and yet for those that live here, the quality of life is still maintained.”

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