13 October 2013

Windward Mall, Kaneohe, HI

An extant asset

27 December 2021

As a kid growing up in Hawai'i, it was a rare occurrence to visit the Windward (eastern) side of the island of O'ahu. And when we did, it was kind of a big deal. From our subdivision on the Leeward (western) side, it was almost two whole hours away! So those ventures were usually reserved for day long beach sojourns to Bellows or for the occasional field trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Therefore, during the three years that both I and Windward Mall coexisted on that speck of a landmass, I don't recall ever having gone there. In fact, I don't even recall ever having any knowledge of the place. And I had no need to; Pearlridge Center was the entire shopping world to me.

1- Windward Mall Mallmanac, ca. 2010. View the full PDF version here.
2- Windward Mall Mallmanac, ca. 2013. View the full PDF version here.

It wasn't until 1993 during my freshman year at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa when I finally got the chance to partake in the pleasures of O'ahu's newest traditional shopping mall. Against the backdrop of the dramatic cliffs of the Ko'olau Mountains in about as suburban a setting as can be found in Honolulu County, I stepped off of The Bus and walked through the foyer of the whitewashed, double tiered retail facility. Inside was a treasure trove of early eighties design madness, from the burnt red clay tiles to the hanging planters to globe shaped lighting sconces. I loved it. And it remained this brooding, Allison Reynolds of a mall all the way until the mid-2000s.

1- Windward Mall in the early nineties. 2- Windward Mall in 2012. Borders is now Sports Authority.

Windward Mall opened in the city of Kaneohe in 1982, completely under my blissful radar as I spent my seven year-old days hunting bullfrogs and watching airplanes land in Ewa Beach. Originally, the state's only extant department store names occupied all three anchor spots, JCPenney, Liberty House and Sears. Windward saw very few changes until the late nineties and early 2000s when JCPenney exited all of their locations in the islands, was replaced with a Signature Theaters and Borders and Liberty House was taken over by Macy's.

Windward Mall from Hawai'i's clear, blue sky. (Source)

It wasn't until 2006 when the darker tones were removed for the more contemporary colors the mall sees today. But its large center court and signature wind wheel layout remain. On my next trip to Hawai'i, a definite trip to Windward, after a twenty-five year absence, will surely be a priority.


-27 December 2021

Windward Mall Mallmanac, ca. 2015. View the full PDF version here.

I finally did make my first trip back to the islands in 2017 and have since made it a yearly pilgrimage.  And, just as promised, on that first trip back in 2017 one of the first places on my itinerary was Windward Mall.

1- The Windward Mall sign on Kam Highway.  2- The Ko'olau Mountains rise above the mall.  3- Sears and its adjoining northwest wing.  4- Macy's anchors the end of the east wing.

The place hadn’t changed much since my last visit in 1993, minus the renovation, which I definitely see as a good thing.  The warm, earthy wooden tones of the interior were modernized while outside, the white-washed, two-level monolith still holds its place framed against the smoky backdrop of the Ko’olau Mountains.  It is still the only shopping center of size on the windward side of O’ahu even though more recent developments such as Ka Makana Ali’i have sprung up on the leeward side.

1- Macy's from the north.  2- The Macy's store from the south.  3- The former JCPenney store now housing the mall's cinemas.  4- The mall entrance to the southwest wing.

Just a quick and scenic ride on the number 65 over the mountains on the Pali Highway brought me back to the retail complex.  Still anchored by Macy’s and Sears, it remained firmly ensconced in its niche within the secluded market.  Most of the storefronts were occupied and I shared the corridor with a large number of shoppers.  But my favorite destination was always one that I did not have in the Pacific Northwest- a Ruby Tuesday and their salad bar with those scrumptious pumpernickel croutons.

1- Looking down the east concourse toward Macy's.  2- Center Court.  The stores aren't vacant, I just made my visit before most of the stores had opened on a Sunday morning.  3- The food court.  4- Ruby Tuesday, a must stop when in Hawai'i.

Unfortunately, the end came for the last remaining original anchor on my trip in 2019.  Sears, located on the mauka (western, toward the mountains) side of the mall with its distinctive orange tile entrance design, was in the process of its final clearance sales.  The old staple of retail has left the state completely, leaving a glut of retail square footage in the islands purposefully built for a retail category that is difficult to break into in such an isolated archipelago.

1- The Sears exterior with its orange tile entranceways.  2- The back side of Sears facing the mountains, along with their store closing sign in 2019.  3- The mall entrance to Sears just before it's closure. The bottom level has already been permanently closed.  4- Inside the Sears with almost all of the inventory already sold off.

I don’t see Windward Mall ever being fully de-malled as Kane’ohe and the rest of its side of the island are by far the wettest. But never underestimate developers’ zeal to save a buck as outdoor centers are cheaper to maintain and more convenient for shoppers on the go, so you never know.  I just hope I get to see it at least a few more times on my yearly visits to the islands before it is gone for good.

1- Windward Mall Mallmanac, ca. 2017. View the full PDF version here.
2- Windward Mall Mallmanac, ca. 2019. View the full PDF version here.

Windward Mall's official website

1 comment:

  1. It's been a great mystery to me why JCPenney left the state of Hawai'i. They are in all 49 of the other states and Puerto Rico.

    My theory would be that it was too expensive for them to operate there, but Sears still remains, so I don't think it is that.