By JOHN De GROOTE
The Waimea community gathered Monday morning to celebrate the grand opening of a full-size Longs Drugs store.
“Waimea has really needed this,” said store manager Mark Brown. “We have built this from scratch. I’m just really excited the store is here to serve the local community.”
Patrons and employees gathered at the front of the store and held hands as Kahu Billy Mitchell blessed the more than 20,000-square-foot establishment.
The new store is on Kawaihae Road just across the street from Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s lower campus. It replaces a smaller store that was located at Hale Ola Pono medical complex.
After the opening festivities, eager shoppers flocked through the front doors. Less than an hour after those doors opened, the 100th customer had already been served — a good sign of things to come for Brown and his team of employees.
“I have lived in Waimea a very long time and we have not had a store like this,” said Margaret Kawamoto. “The opening was crowded, but just great. The best thing is we won’t have to travel to Kona anymore for things we could not get close by in Waimea.”
The store offers the usual goods and services expected at Longs, but the service that has stirred up the most excitement is the drive-through pharmacy.
“Of course, not driving all the way to the Kona side is great, but I think the drive-through pharmacy will be absolutely huge,” Brown said. “It is something people are not used to yet and hopefully they will just love it.”
The store has also stimulated local job growth.
“We have come a long way,” Brown said. “It went from six employees in the little pharmacy to now 42 employees serving the whole community.”
Longs Drugs was founded in 1938 and opened its first Hawaii location in 1954 in Honolulu. In 2008, CVS Pharmacy acquired Longs, but still operates 51 stores statewide under the Longs name, including 10 Big Island locations.
Email John De Groote at email@example.com.