First major retailer to reopen after Hawaii lava scare

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - A drugstore plans to reopen next week in the small Hawaii town that's being threatened by a slow-moving lava flow, making it the first major retailer to return since molten rock prompted several businesses to evacuate last month. Longs Drugs will reopen in Pahoa as early as Monday after the branch of lava heading toward it stalled, Vinia Rosa, manager of the chain's downtown Hilo store, told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald (http://bit.ly/1GCOGl2 ). However, lava slowly oozing from another breakout point could reach homes as well as the town's police and fire stations if it continues on its current path. Longs closed Dec. 20 as molten rock neared two Pahoa shopping centers. The town's biggest supermarket, Malama Market, and hardware store also closed. Many residents have been driving to Hilo and Keeau to shop since. "We took the precaution, like Malama (Market), because it was coming right toward us," said Rosa, who managed the Pahoa location when it opened in 2010. "Now, it's off to the side, and we need to serve our community one way or another." Longs employs about 50 people in Pahoa. The lava threatening the stores stalled about 600 yards behind Pahoa Marketplace. But the branch of molten rock headed toward the police station is to the north and was less than a half-mile from the highway leading into town Thursday. The police and fire departments have contingency plans to continue serving the area if the flow arrives, said Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County civil defense administrator. Ace Hardware, in the back of Pahoa Marketplace, plans to open its doors again Feb. 1. The store employs about 10 people, said Cory Chagami, chief operating officer for HouseMart, which owns the store. Malama Market and Lex Brodie's Tires are preparing to return to the marketplace but have not set a date, Oliveira said. Hawaiian Beaches resident Deborah Knight said the return of businesses will be a major boost to the area, and she expects residents to show their appreciation. "There is a real sense of loss beyond the convenience," she said. Rosa and Chagami said they have contingency plans to evacuate again if necessary. Both stores transferred employees to other locations after the closures, managers said. Oliveira said the businesses have done a good job weighing the risks. "We support their decision and do everything we can to keep them informed," he said. Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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