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