In Waikiki and need some sunscreen? In Lahaina and need a towel? Leaving Kauai and forgot to pick up some macadamia nuts for your cousin? Where can the Hawai’i tourist find these things and more? The ABC Store, ubiquitous convenience store of Hawai’i, that’s where.
If you’ve been to the Aloha State you have no doubt noticed (and most likely gone into) one of the many ABC stores. These guys have long been a part of the Hawaiian landscape and even expanded beyond the Pacific Ocean. Besides the usual tourist souvenirs and beach necessities, some locations offer gourmet deli-style food, and nearly all sell booze (it’s that last one that keeps many people coming back).
There are 56 ABC Stores in Hawai’i. Walking around Waikiki you’d think they are all there. Waikiki has 37 in a one mile radius with the most glorious example of redundancy found at the intersection of Kalakua and Seaside Avenues (there are 4 ABC Stores at that intersection alone). In total, Oahu has 39 stores, Maui has 12, Big Island 5, and Kauai 3. Beyond Hawai’i’s shores there are 8 in Las Vegas, 8 in Guam, and 2 in Saipan. The most recent addition to the ABC Store family is Honolua Store in Kapalua, Maui, and the Suoka store in Kauai (although they won’t be taking the last one over until 2018). The Honolua store has always had a certain amount of charm and it exhibits all the latest conveniences one would look for under the ABC management, including a deli, coffee bar and expanded wine and spirits section.
Owners Sidney and Minnie Kosasas opened their first store/pharmacy in 1949 after a visit to Miami Beach. When they saw visitors shop at convenience stores rather than the expensive hotel shops, the Kosasas had a “eureka” moment. Kosasas recognized that Waikiki would soon become a tourist destination on par with Miami Beach and opportunity put his experience as a grocer and pharmacist to work. In 1964 the first ABC outlet opened on Kalakekua ave in Waikiki. Originally called “Mister K”, the Kosasas decided to change the name to “ABC” to make it easier to remember and the last store to bear that name changed in 2009.
ABC Stores cant easily be shrugged away as only a tourist shop. They have become pervasive for good reason, though. Everyone who visits or lives in Hawai’i will find themselves in need of one of the multitude of products that ABC Stores carry. They have accomplished their goal of being the convenience store of the islands. As they say on their website, “Just another chain of convenience stores? Not really!”
So the next time you’re in Waikiki take some time to admire the magnificent abundance of the ABC’s of Hawaii. And maybe grab a gift or two while you’re there.