By HUNTER BISHOP
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A new Longs Drugs in Waimea now being constructed is set to open in June.
With more than 20,000 square feet of retail space, the pharmacy store will be twice the size of the existing one in the Hale Ola Pono medical complex on Kawaihae Road.
The new Longs is not far away from the existing store and is going up on an adjacent location between Hale Ola Pono and Parker Square.
Michael DeAngelis, a spokesman for CVS Caremark, Longs parent company in Hawaii, said the new building will allow the store to provide “a larger selection of merchandise” to customers.
“We’ve done very well in (Waimea), but the new store will be closer in size to what we offer at other Longs locations.” DeAngelis said.
There was vocal community opposition to the plan initially, said Waimea Community Association Chairman Sherm Warner. “People said, ‘I hate it,’ but it’s going to go in there,” he said. And now that the construction is giving shape to the building, “it doesn’t look as huge as it did” in the plans.
“I don’t hear much about it anymore,” Warner said.
Longs now is tucked into the back of Hale Ola Pono, a medical center building across Kawaihae Road from Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s lower campus building. It has a full service pharmacy, but few other items. “No one would notice it,” Warner said.
The new Longs being built right next door will have a photo department and expanded departments for over the counter health and personal care items, cosmetics, household and grocery items, DeAngelis said. Longs currently has 10 stores on Hawaii Island.
Warner isn’t fond of the new development. “I’m afraid we’re becoming a row of strip malls.” But Longs has been responsive to WCA’s concerns, he said. “They’ve worked with us on colors, they’ve adjusted the landscaping.”
Traffic congestion may still be an issue as numerous driveways with access to Kawaihae Road exist near the project, Warner added. He said Longs also has tried to negotiate with neighboring property owners to connect parking lots and eliminate some driveways.
County Traffic Division Director Ron Thiel said Longs agreed to contribute $20,000 to the county to install a crosswalk with flashing yellow lights for pedestrians walking across Kawaihae Road and other traffic improvements. Thiel wasn’t sure if the Department of Public Works has received the money from Longs yet, however.
“We’re in the process of putting in two crosswalks with flashing lights in Waimea, one right in front of the (Longs) project,” Thiel said, and he expects the Longs’ contribution to help pay for the improvement.
DeAngelis said the new Longs should be ready for customers in June and the company will be staging special events in conjunction with the opening. “We’ll have a big, grand opening,” DeAngelis said. “We look forward to continuing to serve the community.”
CVS operates 51 Longs pharmacy stores throughout Hawaii.