Hawaii & Alaska
Paia Mercantile will be shutting down, a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic and the tourism shutdown. Its Paia store is shown in this photo taken in June. Matthew Thayer / Maui News

HI - Without Any Tourists, Local Retailers Closing For Good

Study: Maui County businesses are hardest hit by the shutdown of tourism

Some owners in the latest wave of Maui small business closures said federal relief wasn’t enough to buoy them through the pandemic’s economic woes — especially when there was no end in sight.

“It’s not only wiped out all our hopes and dreams, it’s also left us in debt,” Paia Mercantile owner Michelle Earl said Friday.

Despite receiving loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, Micro Business Loan Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, Earl said high rent and low revenue, along with reopening delays, were forcing her and her wife to shutter six Maui retail stores this month.

Retailers Horses R Us, Brown-Kobayashi and Adriene Jay Boutique also have announced closures. They will be added to a growing list of Maui businesses shuttering doors for good amid the pandemic.

Maui County businesses are the most adversely affected during the pandemic, according to a recent survey by University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization and the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii. The study released last week surveyed 464 Hawaii businesses as a follow-up to an April survey.

The number of businesses reporting that they would not survive COVID-19 rose from 6 percent to 17 percent with the delays in the reopening of tourism, according to the study. Also, 75 percent of businesses needed to make staff cuts and other reductions, and roughly a third anticipated making deeper cuts in the months to come.

Horses R Us, a riding equipment and apparel retailer in Kahului, will close at the end of this month after two decades. Owner Jennifer Brittin-Fulton said Friday that she is not the only frustrated businessperson in the state.

“There’s no end in sight,” she said. “Our leaders don’t seem to have a plan. They will say something, and then they will change it.”

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