June 24, 2021

Column: A cry for help from a Hawaii business owner

Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s recent decision for two more weeks of a lockdown on Oahu has detrimental and severe economic impacts to our local businesses and employees. The other counties of Hawaii have chosen not to lock down.

This second lockdown is the final nail in the coffin for many, many local businesses. We will not die from COVID-19; we will die from the lockdown. I am certainly not trying to downplay the COVID-19 pandemic, it is awful and we must all do our best to stay safe and protect our kupuna.

What is completely unfair is the fact that mainland big-box stores and online retailers — such as Amazon, Wayfair, Costco, Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Office Max — are all allowed to sell and deliver furniture “all day long” in Hawaii during this pandemic, all profiting from the COVID pandemic and the mayor’s shutdown.

Meanwhile, local businesses such as INspiration Furniture, our friends at C.S. Wo and Homeworld and other smaller local furniture stores as well as many other retailers are shut down. How shameful, Mayor Caldwell and Gov. David Ige, that you have locked us out and we cannot compete against these major mainland retailers. Why are they all open and we are not?

Caldwell is stating that furniture is not essential. But furniture is definitely essential: People are still moving, relocating during the COVID-19 pandemic, and everyone is encouraged to work from home.

INspiration Furniture stores have in stock, here on Oahu, the perfect essential home office furniture solutions — ergonomically designed to prevent and relieve stress, headaches and muscle fatigue that so many people suffer from during this awful pandemic. Our warehouses here on Oahu have height-adjustable desks to accommodate our keiki, students and adults, as well as adjustable ergonomically designed office chairs.

Do not tell me this furniture is not essential for our local families, where students and adults have to study and work from home! The mayor told me I would receive a ticket for my truck drivers if they deliver furniture. Our customers can order from our website — but it’s Amazon, Wayfair, Target, Costco, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Office Max that can deliver furniture every day to local customers.

We sell furniture to all “essential” businesses, care homes, developers, banks, hospitals, military families, schools, universities, churches, local and federal government. Mayor Caldwell, do not tell me “furniture is not essential.”

The mayor told me personally that we are allowed to sell furniture online; however, we are not allowed to deliver our furniture and will be fined if we do so. We may, on the other hand, hire or contract with “island movers” to deliver our furniture. Can anyone explain how this makes sense?

In no other state in the union are furniture and retailers closed down. In fact, it’s just Oahu that remains as the only county in the entire country that has shut down local businesses.

Where is the logic, fairness and support for local businesses? The local government shows absolutely no compassion; we should all remember this in the next election.

You are killing your local businesses, Mayor Caldwell; in my opinion, you obviously do not care or need the family-owned, hard-working local businesses anymore. But for your information, local businesses are the fabric of a prosperous sound island economy.

I just pray and hope some local businesses in Hawaii will survive the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Thomas Sorensen is owner of INspiration furniture, Stage and Amuse Restaurant and the Honolulu Design Center.

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