A Longs Story Short

The new Longs in Kapaa is more than twice as large as the old store, and offers a drive-through pharmacy. It opens Sunday.

It’s hard to miss the slick, brand-new Longs Drugs in Kapaa fronting Courtyard by Marriott Kauai at Coconut Beach. The upgraded appearance and central location have employees eager to show off the store’s improved digs to customers this weekend.

“We hope they’re as excited as we are,” says photo clerk Lisa Freepartner. “It’s going to provide so much more for everyone in the community.”

Avis Koerte, Longs Drugs’ shift supervisor, is looking forward to making a fresh start.

“I can’t wait to get in here,” says the Kapaa High School graduate, who has been working for Longs for two decades. “I like the thought of having a new home.”

There isn’t anything about the former store that Maxine Rasay will miss. She’s been working for the company nearly 30 years, and is excited about the greater selection of cosmetics she will be able to offer her customers. Not only will there be more merchandise to choose from in professional hair care, such as shampoo and conditioner, there also will be ample fragrances and makeup products.

The Kapaa store is a little more than double the size of the former one and will have plenty of new commodities, ranging from diet products and over-the counter medications, to “As Seen on TV” products and prepared food like sandwiches, salads and fruit bowls. There even will be a new section for plants, flowers and lei.

What makes this Longs Drugs store especially unique, however, is its drive-through pharmacy — the first of its kind on the island. Customers can call in their prescriptions in advance and pick up their medications on the fly.

“It’s going to be great for people who don’t want to get out of their car,” notes Freepartner.

Longs Drugs originally opened in the late 1930s as Longs Self-Service Drugs in California. Here in the Islands, the business was launched in the 1950s in Honolulu, and continued to grow across the state as well as on the Mainland. In 2000, Longs Drug Stores Corporation was one of the largest drug store chains in the U.S., according to AmerisourceBergen, with more than 400 stores and annual sales averages topping $9.5 million per store. In 2008, CVS Pharmacy acquired the company and continues to expand its services across the nation, including on Kauai.

Store manager Darlene Fujita just celebrated her 30-year anniversary working for Longs.

“I enjoy the people; we’re all like family,” she says.

The Kapaa High School graduate’s first job with the company was as a cashier in Lihue. It only took her about a year or two to start climbing the ranks. She eventually transitioned to the Kapaa store at Kauai Village Shopping Center, where she became assistant manager, and she was promoted to store manager about four years ago. She, too, looks forward to moving into the new building this week.

Yet, while excitement abounds, what Fujita still finds most rewarding about her job is watching people grow and move up within the company, which she says has a reputation for taking exceptional care of its employees.

“It’s a good company,” says Freepartner, who started at Longs Drugs as a cashier 22 years ago after people encouraged her to apply because of the company’s positive reputation as an employer.

It’s not just her relationship with Longs that has kept Koerte working there for so long.

“You develop a good relationship with your customers,” she says. “They trust you enough to come directly to you to ask you for things.”

Since they often tell her they appreciate how she knows where everything is, Koerte hopes she’ll be able to find her way around the new, much larger store as quickly as possible so that she can continue providing the same level of service.

It’s that high quality of service that Fujita attributes to Longs Drugs’ long-term local success. Not only does she foresee a prosperous future for the business and its some 40 employees, including almost 10 new hires at the Kapaa location, she believes it will continue to grow, serving more areas, creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.

“We’re here to stay,” says Freepartner. The brand-new Longs Drugs Kapaa will open its doors at 8 a.m. Sunday (Nov. 9), and will remain open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The pharmacy’s hours of operation will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.