The countdown until Kailua-Kona’s brand new grocery store opens its doors to the public is nearing an end.
A 63,000-square-foot Safeway being built at 75-971 Henry St. is set to open Dec. 16 after nearly two and a half years of construction. The project, which broke ground June 27, 2018, is part of the $95 million, 205,000-square-foot Niumalu Marketplace between Lanihau Shopping Center and Henry Street.
Transition from the old Safeway location in the Kona Crossroads Shopping Center is currently underway; approximately 60 new employees have been hired, according to store manager John Perillo, to ensure the new location is fully staffed from the get-go. The old location will close its doors for good Tuesday, Dec. 15, to give way to the Niumalu Marketplace Safeway’s opening the following morning at 8 a.m.
“It’s challenging trying to operate two floors at the same time, to keep the store open up there while filling this store as well, working both of them together,” said Perillo of the transition from one store to the other. “We’ll probably have about 165 [employees]. And we’ll be hiring an additional 10 to 12 more when the fuel is done.”
Perillo noted that Safeway’s plans to open their 18-pump gas station have been pushed back, but a June opening is anticipated.
The grocery store will initially be the lone shop in the Niumalu Marketplace, though a number of potential tenants have expressed interest in opening stores, according to a representative from the project’s developer CREDE. Small businesses showing interest include those in real estate, medical, jewelry and fitness; future tenants are expected to be officially announced by CREDE in early 2021.
In all, the marketplace covers more than 20 acres of land makai of Queen Kaahumanu Highway, with the potential to house more than two dozen commercial tenants.
The future of Safeway’s current location in the Kona Crossroads Shopping Center is currently unclear. Public affairs representatives at Safeway were unable to be reached for comment on the company’s plans for the property moving forward.