The Amazing ABC Stores of Hawaii

Chances are that if you have been to Hawaii, you have shopped in an ABC Store. Conversely, if you have not been to Hawaii, you probably have never seen one.

ABC Stores is a company I greatly admire.

Question: “Where is the nearest ABC Store?”

Answer: “Step out of the front door of your hotel and walk 50 yards into any direction.”

I just got back from Honolulu. From my hotel, I found four ABC Stores within two minutes of walking into three different directions. There are more ABC Stores than Starbucks stores in that neighborhood.

An ABC Store is like a convenience mart, similar to a 7-Eleven or Circle K, but much, much, much better.

ABC Stores are always clean, with a no-nonsense decor, a very simple logo (see picture) and an intuitive layout. The employees wear Hawaiian shirts and are always friendly and helpful, and there are lots of them in the store. You never have to wait for help. Shopping baskets are at the front, but also stacked inside the stores at central locations.

The merchandise is exactly what you want as a tourist. They have Hawaiian Macadamia nuts covered in chocolate, many different candy products, Hawaiian merchandise like T-shirts, shirts, bathing suits and hats. They have beach accoutrements, like mats, snorkels, flippers, flip-flops, sunglasses and towels. They have bath salts, candles, soaps, lotions, aroma baths. If you need groceries, bread, peanut butter, turkey, butter, eggs, crackers, canned soups, ready-made sandwiches, cheese, bottled water and soda, it’s all there. They offer the wares of a full liquor store, with beer, wine, rum for those beach drinks, and hard liquor of all types. If you need over the counter drugs, band aids, toothpaste, tissue, toilet paper, it’s all there. They stock any kind of souvenir you can think of, like hats, cups, glasses, calendars with risqué pictures, postcards, books, and knickknacks of all manner.

How they fit all this offering into the relatively small stores is a mystery, but it works. The prices are very reasonable. I have never felt ripped off in an ABC Store like I have in a convenience mart or gas station, and I have never gone into an ABC Store and not walked out with what I needed or was looking for.

The stores seem to be everywhere in Hawaii. And, supposedly, they are all owned by one single individual. I have not been able to confirm that.

Who would think you could duplicate the 7-Eleven concept, make it better, and compete successfully? It does not seem to make sense.

Yet, that’s exactly what ABC Stores has done.

One thought on “The Amazing ABC Stores of Hawaii

  1. Trisha

    I asked an employee this question once, assuming that the stores were franchised. They are not – “bummer huh?” she said.

    Owned by Sidney and Minnie Kosasa.
    78 stores, 56 in Hawaii.
    900 Employees.
    150 million in annual profits.

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