FMC Warehouse Moves Forward
Every day, warehouse workers at Friendly Market Center stack and unstack food from the store’s current storage situation — three shipping containers. Last week, the Molokai Planning Commission granted FMC the permit to build a much-needed warehouse, loading dock and office building across the road from the store location that will eliminate the current inadequate arrangement. Community members and commissioners agreed with FMC employees that the project will provide desperately needed additional space for storage, a safer working environment for operators and lower prices for customers.
The 7,544 square foot building, estimated to cost $400,000, will be located across Alohi Street in the lot adjacent to Ace Hardware on one side and Kamoi Street on the other.
“I’m a [warehouse operator] so this is my job every day,” testified FMC employee Ka`ala Wright. “The containers hold our products and everyday we go in and we take it out so we can provide the product for the community on the shelf. As we’re taking it out, things get damaged, and as we’re putting it in, things get damaged…. as things get damaged, it trickles down to the community, so if we save, you save.”
The project was previously approved by the Molokai Planning Commission in 2013 but the owners at the time, the Egusa family, did not build before the permit expired after three years. FMC manager and 28-year employee, Patrick “PJ” Augustiro, Jr. said Jeff Egusa had been planning the warehouse for a while but told him, “I don’t even have the gas to do it anymore.” When the three Okimoto brothers, Kris, Kit and Kyle, of Waianae, Oahu bought the business last year, they planned to pick up with the warehouse plans where the Egusas left off.
The Okimotos, who also purchased the subject property from the Egusas, refiled for the Special Management Area Minor permit necessary to build and operate the warehouse, and turned in the application with no changes to the previously approved plans. The Molokai Planning Commission approved the permit at their meeting last Wednesday.
Commissioner Leonora Espaniola wondered whether more storage space would allow FMC to be more like Costco, potentially hurting other local businesses. But others didn’t feel that was the case.
“I’m a small business owner on Molokai,” said Commissioner John Pele, who owns Maunaloa General Store, “And I think this is good.”
Resident Colette Machado said she feels lower prices are important for the community and that a little competition is healthy.
Augustiro said it’s nothing like Costco.
“It’s more about protection of the products, bringing in more products, bring down the prices a little bit better for the community, not to make a Costco here,” he said.
Both Augustiro and Wright said the Okimotos just want the best for Molokai.
“After I’m done work, I become a shopper, so everything the Okimotos are doing for us, they’re doing for us as a community,” she said.
The Okimotos retained the company’s 44 Molokai employees and local management when they took over the business.
Commission Chair Lori Buchanan had some concerns about adequate drainage in the project’s plan, and that a traffic analysis and comments from the fire and police departments had not been included in the application to ensure all possible impacts were considered. But County Planning staff said the departments submitted no comments relevant to the project.
Commissioner John Sprinzel, who was on the Planning Commission when the permit was approved in 2013, said no one had objected at that time.
“I must say that no business would spend [this much money] to do something which isn’t necessary and which doesn’t help the distribution of food on this island. So that’s why we approved it….” he recalled.
Augustiro described the current storage arrangement as a “chicken coop operation.”
“There’s three containers on the property right now,” he said. “This warehouse is going to take up those three containers right now to consolidate everything to the warehouse instead of going in and out of the containers. Every day, the boys have to go in and out of those containers, they have to restack it, bring it out, restack it — in and out, everyday. It takes a lot of time, a lot of damages that happen. It’s also protection from the elements… everyday we have to battle the elements.”
Augustiro said the Okimotos have also indicated they’re also considering using some space to store water and emergency supplies for the community.
One of the project’s conditions for approval is that construction will begin by February of next year and