April 13, 2020 – Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said during an afternoon press conference today that he would sign a new order allowing fabric stores on Oahu to reopen at 4:30 p.m today on a limited basis.
Fabric stores may offer sales three ways, he said.
Customers may purchase fabric and pay for it online, and have the fabric mailed to them. Customers can also place an order and go to the store, and then have the fabric delivered to them in their car, similar to the “farm-to-car” initiative.
Fabric stores may also allow two customers to enter the store in order to look at the materials, and then to make a purchase and then leave. Only two, however, may enter the store at a time, to ensure social distancing.
Caldwell said he wanted to make sure people had the ability to purchase materials to make masks, given that earlier this month, he had strongly recommended people wear cloth masks when going out in public.
But no one should be standing in a line outside of the store, he said.
“You can’t line up outside the store,” said Caldwell. “You have to find another way. You can park in a parking space. Go in, look at fabric, pay, and sit in the car and have it delivered outside. You could perhaps ask for a swatch to be brought to the car to touch and feel it, and see it if is appropriate for a mask.”
On Friday, Fabric Mart was ordered to temporarily close its three stores on Oahu at the end of the day because it did not comply with the mayor’s order, which on Thursday had clarified in a guidance document that fabric stores were not considered essential.
“We want to make sure people have the ability to purchase material to make masks,” he said.
Caldwell said the city responded to its enforcement of fabric stores as non-essential because complaints had come in to its call center, complaining that the fabric stores were open.
A flurry of protest quickly arose among hundreds of Hawaii residents and others against Caldwell’s order that fabric stores close down because they are not considered essential.
An online petition launched by Honolulu City Council candidate Jacob Aki also went up Friday, urging the mayor to consider fabric stores essential.
As of 2 p.m. Monday afternoon, more than 500 signed a petition launched by Honolulu City Council candidate Jacob Aki, asking that fabric stores such as Fabric Mart be considered essential for those who are sewing face masks to protect others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many said they needed to go to the store to inspect the fabric in person, in order to make a purchase. Others said stores such as Fabric Mart had already been limiting the number of customers inside, and reminding those in line to practice social distancing and to remain six feet apart.
Angie Kim, owner of Fabric Mart, said she had been limiting the number of shoppers to between six to 10 before closing on Friday. She is, however, overwhelmed, with eight times more orders than before the pandemic started.
She would not have the resources or enough employees to run fabric swatches out to every customer sitting in their car, she said, but she will be working on an appointment system that will be available on hawaiifabricmart.com.
“Honestly, our concern is for the public safety as well as for the safety of employees, too,” she said. “We are working on pushing online orders, shipping to home, curbside pickup and setting up appointments. We want people to be safe.”