TRAVEL

Why Waikiki Has So Many Friggin' ABC Stores

02/09/2015 08:00 am ET | Updated Feb 01, 2016
NoJuan/Flickr

If you've ever walked around Waikiki, you've probably spotted an ABC Store or two. Or five. Or probably 15.

The locally-owned convenience stores are virtually everywhere, selling everything from beach mats, groceries and liquor to souvenirs, sunscreen, and aloha shirts.

In the one and a half-square mile radius that makes up Waikiki, you'll find 34 ABC Stores. Thirty-four. Locals like to think (incorrectly) that the name stands for, "All Blocks Covered" because you can pass three stores on one block.

Story continues below.

ABC Stores (not to be confused with the mainland's Alcoholic Beverage Control stores) are so in-your-face that they have even forged their way into the Hawaii experience. The stores' white plastic bags and iconic blue circle has become an unofficial, international symbol for, "That's right, I went to Hawaii!" -- and tourists show it off like it's a fresh flower lei.

Story continues below.

A photo posted by @bradfordsisk on

#ABCSTORES 海の近くに住みたい

A photo posted by Yuya K (@k.pan) on

So, why are there so many ABC Stores in Waikiki?

"It wasn't planned," ABC Stores president and CEO Paul Kosasa told The Huffington Post. "The number of stores happened over four decades. There's nothing rocket science about it."

Kosasa's parents opened the first ABC Store in 1964, after a trip to Miami Beach inspired the idea. Waikiki was still a largely residential neighborhood at the time, but, according to the Honolulu Star Bulletin, Kosasa's father saw Miami's bustling tourism and thought that Waikiki would one day be the same.

He was right. When Hawaii became an official state in 1959, tourism took off.

As more hotels sprouted around their first store, opportunities to open more shops presented themselves, and the Kosasas considered them one store at a time. Now, 51 years later, over 85 hotels tower over the dense beachside neighborhood, with an ABC Store or two at the foot of most buildings.

Kosasa's family may not have planned to take over every corner of Waikiki, but he's not shy about its benefits. "As we study consumers' behavior, [we learn that] they demand convenience," Kosasa said. "If we have a store at the right place and the right time [for the consumer] then we have a potential customer."

It's like when you leave your hotel room and head to the beach, but you forget to bring some water. "You may pass three or four ABC Stores," Kosasa added, "then, maybe on the fourth store, you'll say, 'You know what? I think I'm going to need some water,' and then you'll go in."

It's all about convenience, Kosasa says. The same goes for the company's name. "'ABC' doesn't stand for anything," he said, disproving the myths surrounding those three letters. "It's the most simple thing my father could come up with." It's a name that tourists flying in from all over the world could easily remember.

ABC Stores continue to be a family-owned and operated business with 77 locations spread across each of the main Hawaiian islands, Las Vegas, Guam and Saipan.

Their most successful stores, however, remain on Kalakaua Avenue, the same street that Kosasa's parents opened their first ABC Store half a century ago.

A photo posted by Tad Hulse (@radtadhulse) on

Also on HuffPost:

Hawaii In Photos
Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS